Magnesium and Alcohol

April is Alcohol Awareness Month.

Alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a particularly potent toxin that can damage all the tissues in the body including the brain. It is produced when you drink alcohol, breathe the exhaust from cars and smoke cigarettes.

With regards to alcohol and pregnancy, alcohol can cause birth defects, including brain, heart, liver defects, vision or hearing problems, it can cause a preterm birth, low birth weight. intellectual disabilities, learning and behavior problems, speech and language delays and other behavioral problems.

Why take the chance? Young women drinking alcohol is not a sign of independence and equality, it is a marketing victory for those companies that find young women as a niche market that can be exploited similar to the cigarette commercials that exploited women by positioning smoking with independence and their “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” slogans and marketing campaigns.

There has been considerable research on acetaldehyde as an air pollutant. It readily combines with red blood cells, proteins, and enzymes; travels to all parts of the body; and even passes through the blood brain barrier. It damages the structure of red blood cells making them unable to squeeze through tiny capillaries to convey oxygen to needy tissues. Acetaldehyde also blocks the attachment of oxygen to red blood cells. Your brain uses 20 percent of all the oxygen that you inhale but stiff red blood cells cut down that amount considerably leaving you with brain fog and oxygen depletion. Imagine what that does to a developing fetus.

Acetaldehyde damages nerve cells by creating deficiency of an important nerve vitamin, B1 (thiamine); it undermines vitamin B3 (niacin), the energy and neurotransmitter vitamin; and disrupts brain function by interfering with vitamin B5.

Alcohol encourages yeast overgrowth which has a whole spectrum of unhealthy symptoms.

Alcohol depletes a broad range of vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, enzymes, proteins and minerals from your body and your baby’s body. The kingpin to this depletion is magnesium which is the anti-stress mineral that most men and women are deficient in. This mineral regulates over 700 enzyme actions in the body and is crucial to overall health and wellness.

Carolyn Dean, MD, ND

Research Studies
J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Oct;13(5):416-23.
Magnesium deficiency and alcohol intake: mechanisms, clinical significance and possible relation to cancer development (a review).
Rivlin RS1.

A comprehensive and critical review of the evidence relating magnesium (Mg) deficiency to alcohol consumption reveals several important types of interactions. First, alcohol acts acutely as a Mg diuretic, causing a prompt, vigorous increase in the urinary excretion of this metal along with that of certain other electrolytes. Second, with chronic intake of alcohol and development of alcoholism, the body stores of Mg become depleted. During the late stages of alcoholism, the urinary excretion of Mg may become diminished as a physiological response to reduced intake and reduction of body stores. A number of aspects of the clinical syndrome of alcoholism contribute to and intensify that already existing reduction in body Mg stores. Third, a number of manifestations of alcoholism are believed due to effects of Mg deficiency, and some therapeutic benefit has been suggested from treatment of alcoholic patients with Mg. Finally, relatively little attention has been paid to the possible value of Mg administration as a preventive measure to forestall or minimize the deleterious effects of chronic use of alcohol or to prevent the development of cancer than can occur in this setting.


Magnes Res. 2008 Dec;21(4):197-204
Magnesium homeostasis and alcohol consumption.
Romani AM1.


Clinical and experimental evidence indicates alcohol consumption as one of the major causes of magnesium loss from several tissues. As a result of this loss, serum magnesium tends to decrease while urinary magnesium excretion increases 2-3 fold. Experimental data confirm that chronic consumption of 6% ethanol in the Lieber De-Carli diet for 3 weeks results in a marked decrease in total tissue magnesium content in rats. This decrease affects brain, liver and all skeletal muscle, including heart, to a varying extent. While a full picture of the implications of magnesium loss in these tissues is still lacking, it is becoming progressively clear that magnesium loss affects energy production, protein synthesis, cell cycle, and specific functions in the various organs affected. In addition, as magnesium regulated cytokine production and secretion, especially in macrophages and leukocytes, a major role of magnesium deficiency in alcohol-induced inflammatory processes can be envisioned. Considering all these various aspects together, it becomes apparent that magnesium loss may represent a predisposing factor to the onset of alcohol-induced pathologies including brain stroke, sarcopenia, cardiomyopathy, steatohepatitis and cirrhosis. The present review will attempt to clarify some of the mechanisms by which ethanol impairs magnesium transport and homeostasis in brain, brain vasculature, skeletal muscle, heart and liver cells, as a first step towards more mechanistic studies aimed at relating magnesium loss with the incurrence of short- and long-term ethanol-induced complications in these organs.

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