Can drinking alcohol cause vitamin deficiencies?

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
Heavy drinking is known to cause folic acid deficiency. And even moderate drinking -- about one drink per day for women and two for men -- may pose a problem. Women in the Nurses' Health Study who drank moderate amounts of alcohol and took in little folic acid had a higher risk for breast cancer than their counterparts who took multivitamins containing folic acid. This combination -- drinking alcohol and having low levels of folic acid -- has been linked to colon cancer, too. Experts advise even moderate consumers of alcohol to step up their folic acid intake. Heavy drinking can also contribute to deficiencies of other micronutrients, including vitamin A, thiamin, vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. It may increase the need for niacin, vitamin C, and sometimes zinc. Tissue studies on people who are dependent on alcohol have noted lower concentrations of the antioxidants beta carotene, vitamins C and E, and selenium.

Continue Learning about Alcohol & Health

How Alcohol Affects Women
How Alcohol Affects Women
Men are drinking less and women are drinking more—closing up the gender-drinking gap, says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIA...
Read More
How much alcohol should I drink a day?
Sunrise Hospital & Medical CenterSunrise Hospital & Medical Center
If you’re a woman, one drink a day is recommended, and if you’re a man, two drinks. One drink is 12-...
More Answers
How can alcohol affect sexual performance?
Jan L. Shifren, MDJan L. Shifren, MD
Some men with erectile dysfunction find that having one drink can help them relax, but heavy use of ...
More Answers
Beer Is Good for Your Heart, Too!
Beer Is Good for Your Heart, Too!

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.