Alcohol and Nutritional Deficiencies

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog

Moderate drinking may rob the body of key vitamins and minerals.

— Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.

What’s the harm in enjoying an occasional cocktail? Or having a nice glass of wine with dinner? The research shows that for most of us, moderate alcohol intake poses no health hazards and offers a number of health benefits.

One serving of alcohol per day is the limit for women, however, if you’ve had breast cancer it’s probably best to limit it to one alcoholic beverage 1-2 times per week. Men should limit their intake to no more than 2 servings per day. The reality is that many people drink 2 or more servings of alcohol on a regular basis.

Indulging in that third glass of “heart healthy” red wine may put you at risk for depletion of:



Zinc helps protect us against upper respiratory infections, maintain a healthy blood sugar, repair our DNA and helps wounds heal. Zinc may also offer some protection against depression, a benefit which alcohol, a depressant, wipes right out. Common signs of zinc deficiency: mental fatigue, hair loss, and impotence in men.


Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

 Thiamine plays a vital role in your body’s energy production and the health of your brain and nervous system. Up to 80% of heavy drinkers have some degree of thiamine deficiency, as alcohol impairs its absorption in the intestine. This water soluble vitamin is poorly stored in the body and depletion can happen in just 2 weeks! Early signs of deficiency include loss of appetite, constipation, irritability, and depression.


Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)

Vitamin B6 plays an important role in the production of fuel and energy, and is critical for optimal function of our brain, nervous and immune systems. Thirty million Americans are deficient in this important vitamin and alcohol can contribute to low levels.


Folate (Vitamin B9)

Beyond supporting growth and development from infancy, folate is essential for maintaining healthy brain function. In addition, folate and vitamins B6 and B12 are important regulators of the metabolism of homocysteine, an amino acid in our blood. When blood levels of these B-vitamins are low, homocysteine rises, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke—the second leading cause of death in the world.


Vitamins A, D, E and K. Alcohol impairs fat absorption, which decreases the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. These nutrients are necessary for promoting the health of our eyes, brain, bones and ensuring appropriate blood clotting.

If you regularly drink alcohol, even if it’s usually in moderation, I suggest you take a daily multivitamin-mineral to protect against potential nutrient depletion. 


Learn more about the nutrients you need in Dr. Low Dog’s latest book, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.