Published on September 6, 2021
Alcohol intake can present an issue for several nutrients, with magnesium, vitamin D and certain B vitamins among those affected
Last week, we covered a list of medications that have a potential affect on vitamin D levels, and received a common question in return from several of our followers – what about alcohol?
According to an analysis of the GrassrootsHealth cohort that was completed in September of 2019, 72% of participants had indicated consumption of alcohol in the months prior to their last test. Since then, alcohol consumption has risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic; one study on adults in the United States indicating a large increase in alcohol intake, with 1/3 of their participants having reported binge drinking and 7% reporting extreme binge drinking over the study period.
How Much is Too Much Alcohol?
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are pros and cons to light or moderate alcohol intake, however, too much alcohol is harmful in many ways.
Heavy alcohol use is defined as
- more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week for men
- more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week for women
- binge drinking (5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women within 2 hours) on 5 or more days in the past month
- alcoholism, defined as uncontrolled continued or compulsive use of alcohol
Keep in mind that many of the nutrient imbalances discussed below are in the context of chronic excessive alcohol intake, and may not occur with minimal or moderate drinking.
Nutrients Affected by Heavy and Chronic Alcohol Intake
A paper by Ham BJ and Choi IG reviews the effects of alcohol on specific nutrients and the association between alcohol intake and nutrient status; their findings on the effects of alcoholism on the status of certain nutrients are summarized in the table below.
According to the authors, alcoholism is the most common cause of magnesium imbalance. One study showed that alcohol intake per day was negatively associated with both serum magnesium and serum selenium levels. In fact, the higher the intake of alcohol, the lower the magnesium and selenium levels, indicating that no matter how much alcohol is consumed, any amount may affect the status of these two essential elements.
Chronic alcohol intake is also associated with low levels of zinc, especially among women; however, this may be directly related to the health of the liver.
Folate is one of the most negatively affected nutrients due to alcohol intake. When alcohol is present in the body, the liver ‘leaks’ folate into the blood, which is then excreted by the kidneys. The intestines, which are meant to reabsorb folate, are not able to due to damage from alcohol toxicity.
Deficiency of other B vitamins (such as thiamin, riboflavin, and pyridoxine) are also common in chronic alcoholics, as is vitamin C deficiency.
Deficiencies of fat soluble vitamins A, D, and E were also reported as more likely being deficient among alcoholics compared to non-alcoholics, especially among those with liver and/or pancreatic disease. One study in particular found that 58% of heavy alcohol drinkers had deficient levels of vitamin D (below 20 ng/ml or 50 nmol/L).
What Causes Nutrient Deficiencies in Alcoholics and Heavy Drinkers?
There are several ways that alcohol intake, especially chronic alcohol intake, can lead to nutritional deficiencies or impair the use of nutrients in the body. These include
- inhibited absorption of specific nutrients (such as thiamine and folate) in the presence of alcohol in the gut
- reduced uptake and impaired utilization of nutrients due to damage of the gut, liver, and pancreas
- impairment of nutrient co-enzyme function needed for metabolism
- excessive renal loss of certain nutrients, especially magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, and some B vitamins
- inadequate nutrient intake due to substituting alcohol for food – often leading to malnutrition
- impaired or over-burdened liver function, which can prevent certain vitamins from being metabolized properly (including vitamins A and D)
- decreased storage capacity of certain nutrients in the liver (such as B vitamins and vitamin A)
- higher demand and use of certain nutrients due to tissue damage caused by alcohol
Are Your Vitamin D and Essential Mineral Levels OK?
Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D levels and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Choose which to measure, such as your vitamin D and essential minerals including magnesium, selenium, and zinc, by creating your custom home test kit today. Take steps to improve the status of each of these measurements to benefit your overall health. You can also track your own intakes, symptoms and results to see what works best for YOU.
Enroll and test your levels today, learn what steps to take to improve your status of vitamin D (see below) and other nutrients and blood markers, and take action! By enrolling in the GrassrootsHealth projects, you are not only contributing valuable information to everyone, you are also gaining knowledge about how you could improve your own health through measuring and tracking your nutrient status, and educating yourself on how to improve it.
Help everyone Move Research into Practice with vitamin D and other nutrients! As a special birthday gift to everyone, in honor of the science, we have created a special scholarship fund for anyone to donate to that will go towards helping others participate. Your donation will allow anyone to get help with funding their participation when they need it.
Text-to-give: Text Daction to 44321 to add to our Scholarship Fund.
What Does it Take YOU to Get Your D to 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)?Did you know your health could be greatly affected by making sure you have a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)? Help us help you.
STEP 1 - Do you know what your vitamin D level is? If not, be sure to test today to find out.
STEP 2 – Determine your target level. Are you at your target level? Experts recommend a level of at least 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L).
STEP 3 – Need to boost your level? Use the D*calculator to see how much vitamin D it may take to reach your target. Opt for the Loading Dose for a quicker boost.
STEP 4 – Optimize how your body absorbs and utilizes vitamin D with co-nutrients and these simple steps.
STEP 5 – Re-Test! This is an important step to make sure you have reached your target level, and to ensure you are not taking too much! Re-testing after 3-4 months is recommended.
STEP 6 – Adjust, Repeat…
Give your immune system the nutrients it needs to support a healthy you and protect yourself from unnecessary diseases, especially COVID-19.
The first Randomized Controlled Trial on vitamin D and COVID-19 has shown a 96% lower risk of ICU admission for those receiving vitamin D (as 25(OH)D to quickly boost vitamin D blood levels) along with the standard treatment, compared to those receiving standard treatment alone.
These results support many previous observational studies showing a relationship between vitamin D levels and intake and COVID-19 severity.
GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute has launched the new Immune Boost project with the use of our myData-myAnswers nutrient health system that nearly 15,000 people are already using for their health. Specific markers that influence immune health are suggested for testing as part of this project including:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Index
- Essential elements magnesium, selenium, and zinc
Our goal is to demonstrate how one can use the Nutrient Research Model established by Dr. Robert Heaney to show the effect of vitamin D serum levels of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L) on risk reduction for all ethnicities in the population. Status and intake of other nutrients will also be analyzed for any type of relationship to immune status and symptom severity. Join the project today!
Please let us know if you're interested in helping sponsor this project.
Through GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute, you can also test your essential elements magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium, toxins such as lead, mercury and cadmium, as well as your omega-3 levels, inflammation levels and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level. Find out your levels today! Log on to the test selection page (click the link below) to get your tests and see for yourself if your levels can be improved.
Make sure you track your results before and after, about every 6 months!
How can I track my nutrient intake and levels over time?
To help you track your supplement use and nutrient levels, GrassrootsHealth has created the Personal Health Nutrient Decision System called
For each specific supplement, you can track what days you take it, how much, and many other details. This will help you know your true supplemental intake and what patterns of use work for you to reach and maintain optimum nutrient levels. Check it out today!