Nutritional deficiencies in chronic alcoholics: relation to dietary intake and alcohol consumption

Am J Gastroenterol. 1997 Mar;92(3):485-9.


Objectives: Relationships of nutritional status with ethanol consumption and diet were studied in 33 chronic alcoholics with no clinical or laboratory evidence of liver disease.

Methods: Nutritional assessment included subjective global assessment, weight-height index, body mass index, and serum albumin measurements. Dietary intake included estimates of daily intake of substrates, folic acid, vitamins B1, B5, B6, and B12. Circulating concentrations of folate, pyridoxal-phosphate and vitamin B12 were evaluated as well.

Results: Only 18.1% of patients were considered malnourished, with body mass indices lower than those with an average or good nutritional status (p < 0.0001). Body weight was under 90% of the ideal in 8/33 (24%) patients. Serum albumin values were within normal range in all patients. In terms of calories provided by nonalcoholic substrates, protein, or vitamin intake, we observed no differences between well and poorly nourished individuals. However, malnourished alcoholics consumed significantly more ethanol (p = 0.01) and an inverse correlation was found between ethanol intake and weight-height index (r = -0.35; p = 0.03). Low circulating concentrations of pyridoxal-phosphate and red blood cell folate were found in 51.5% and 60.6% of alcoholics, respectively. These were not correlated with vitamin dietary intake or ethanol consumption, but there was a trend toward malnourished patients to present lower concentrations of red blood cell folate (p = 0.13).

Conclusions: Although over malnutrition is infrequent in this group of chronic alcoholics, specific vitamin deficiencies are present in a substantial proportion of patients and are more likely related to alcohol consumption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Avitaminosis / etiology
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutrition Disorders / etiology*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pyridoxal Phosphate / blood
  • Pyridoxine / administration & dosage
  • Serum Albumin / analysis
  • Thiamine / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Serum Albumin
  • Ethanol
  • Pyridoxal Phosphate
  • Folic Acid
  • Pyridoxine
  • Vitamin B 12
  • Thiamine