Nutrition Matters Alcohol, Health and Disease

Nutrition is a process to provide energy and to maintain body structure and function. Food supplies energy and provides the building blocks needed to replace worn or damaged cells and the nutritional components needed for body function. Alcoholics often eat poorly, limiting their supply of essential nutrients and affecting both energy supply and structure maintenance. Furthermore, alcohol interferes with the nutritional process by affecting digestion, storage, utilization, and excretion of nutrients.

Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable molecules by decreasing secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Alcohol impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines and disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood. In addition, nutritional deficiencies themselves may lead to further absorption problems. For example, foliate deficiency alters the cells lining the small intestine, which in turn impairs absorption of water and nutrients including glucose, sodium, and additional foliate. Even when food intake is adequate, alcohol can impair the mechanisms by which the body controls blood glucose levels, resulting in either increased or decreased blood glucose 

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