Tags: alcohol abuse, Alcoholism, body toxic, brain cells, brain damage, Laboratory studies, memory loss, metabolism, poor memory, Supplement, thiamin, vital nutrients, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
The unsteady gait, confusion, and poor memory that many of us associate with someone who drinks excessively are also symptoms of brain damage caused by long-term alcohol abuse. Alcohol not only affects the brain indirectly by impairing absorption of vital nutrients, but it’s directly toxic to the brain as well.
Studies using brain imaging have consistently found that alcoholic men and women have greater brain shrinkage than non-alcoholics. The cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for coordination and some forms of learning, seems to be especially vulnerable to alcohol. The cerebellum is also affected by the body’s stores of thiamin, which regulates the metabolism of brain cells.
Thiamin is an important player in the way the brain works, and although the brain requires a continuous supply of thiamin, the body does not store it in any appreciable amount. Up to 80 percent of alcoholics have a thiamin deficiency.
Laboratory studies indicate that a thiamin deficiency from alcohol abuse disrupts the ability of brain cells to do their job, resulting in impaired function and cell death. This may eventually lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder characterized by an unsteady gait, confusion, and memory loss.
Some doctors prescribe 50 milligrams of thiamin a day to temporarily supplement the diets of alcoholics, but brain damage caused by a thiamin deficiency cannot be reversed.