Tags: alcohol abuse, alcohol consumption, beta-carotene, cell reproduce, chronic alcoholic delirium, green leafy vegetables, nutrition supplemental, retina, toxic effects, Vitamin A, yellow vegetables
Research suggests that long-term alcohol use causes the liver to excrete vitamin A and impairs the body’s ability to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A.
So it should come as no surprise that people with cirrhosis of the liver, a disease commonly caused by chronic alcohol use, are frequently deficient in vitamin A. Vitamin A plays an important part in helping you to reproduce, to grow new cells, to fight infection, and, because of its important role in the retina, to see at night.
Although it seems like common sense that the answer to a vitamin A deficiency is to simply pop a couple of pills, giving supplemental vitamin A to people with alcohol problems is tricky and cautions.
Vitamin A is not only toxic to the liver if taken in large amounts, but alcohol intensifies that toxicity. If you supplement vitamin A in an alcoholic, you have to be careful not to add insult to injury and enhance the toxic effects of alcohol. It’s important to correct the deficiency. But at the same time, it’s important to avoid any excess. There’s a very small therapeutic window. Even the usual doses of vitamin A can be harmful to alcoholics, so vitamin A supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor. It’s a short hop from helping to hurting with vitamin A.
For a while, researchers wondered if they could avoid the toxic effects of supplementation and still prevent a vitamin A deficiency by prescribing beta- carotene, a nontoxic precursor of vitamin A that occurs naturally in dark green leafy vegetables and in orange and yellow vegetables. But for a drinker, beta-carotene has the same problem as vitamin A itself. Although it’s seemingly nontoxic to everyone else in the world, too much beta-carotene can damage an alcoholic‘s liver just as easily as vitamin A.