Heavy drinkers need vitamin supplements

True. Those who abuse alcohol are prone to vitamin deficiencies, especially of vitamin B-l (thiamin), vitamin B-3 (niacin) and folacin (folic acid), along with deficiencies in the minerals zinc and magnesium. The answer, of course, is to have a more moderate alcohol consumption. For men one to two standard drinks of any kind (containing about 10 to 20 grams alcohol) and for women about one standard drink per day is usually compatible with good health.

Not all alcohol abusers develop vitamin deficiencies and the main reason for differences between individuals appears to be how well they eat. This often relates to socio-economic circumstances. Additionally, a tendency to develop some deficiencies like that of thiamin may be partly inherited.

There has been much discussion about fortification of beer with thiamin in Australia because of the enormous economic burden to the community of those who suffer brain and nervous system damage (especially Korsakoff's psychosis) from thiamin deficiency due to alcohol abuse. If this measure were taken, it would not decrease the risk of any other alcohol-related disease and could lead to a sense of false security in the drinker.

The hangover after excessive drinking is in part due to dehydration and acidosis (a change in blood acid levels). It is not a reflection of vitamin deficiency and it is wrong to think that vitamin supplements can deal with the problem.