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Magnesium Deficiency and Alcoholism

Magnesium Deficiency Found Among Alcoholics

The earliest account of clinical magnesium deficiency was initially reported way back in 1934. It was in 1954 when Flink reported alcoholism as a cause of magnesium deficiency [6]. The deficiency of Magnesium was found to be widely prevalent among alcoholics [1-3]. Based on studies conducted on animals, the magnesium deficiency is aggravated by the hepatic damage primarily caused by the intake of alcohol [4]. The supplementation of magnesium may assist in the normalization of high enzyme activities as well as clinically significant parameters among alcoholics, although the evidence supporting this is rather weak.

According to a clinical study, magnesium deficiency is more prevalent in chronic alcoholism, and at the same time may also contribute to cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis. In the case of alcoholics, magnesium deficiency is primarily caused by renal magnesium wastage, which is further exacerbated by the lack of magnesium in the regular diet. Additionally, factors such as gastrointestinal losses with vomiting and/or diarrhea, along with the concomitant usage of diuretics and aminoglycosides also contribute to the gradual depletion of magnesium in the body of alcoholics [5]. As an example to the ill effects of alcohol, experts claim that the kidney excretes as much as 260% more magnesium within several minutes of drinking alcohol.

The decrease of magnesium in the body affects the brain, skeletal muscles,and liver as well as the heart, all in varying extent. While the complete picture on the implications of magnesium loss in the tissue is still somewhat lacking, it is progressively clear that the loss of magnesium significantly affects protein synthesis, energy production, cell function and other equally important functions of other organs in the body.

Magnesium loss may also be a predisposing factor in the development of alcohol-induced pathologies such as cardiomyopathy, sarcopenia, brain stroke, cirrhosis and steatohepatitis.

A Norwegian study was conducted on chronic alcoholics who were administered  magnesium supplementation. After six weeks of treatment, it was observed that there was a significant decrease in the abnormally elevated activities of the three ezymes, which are directly related to liver function: aspartate-aminotransferase (S-AST), gamma-glutamyltransferase (S-GGT) and alanine-aminotransferase (S-ALT). At the same time, there was a considerable increase in strength in handgrip muscles [3].

Nevertheless, it is believed that through long-term magnesium supplementation, a reformed alcoholic person may be able to restore liver function as well as other possible impairments that are often associated with excessive drinking. Although, there are no solid evidences to promote a clear recommendation on the use of magnesium supplements for clinical practice.

Magnesium Deficiency Triggers Depression

Another study suggested that magnesium deficiency might also result in depression [7]. Magnesium is known to regulate the calcium ion stream towards the neuronal calcium channels. This provides assistance in helping regulate the production of neuronal nitric oxide.

If  magnesium deficiency is present, the neuronal requirements are no longer met, thereby resulting in neuronal damage, which could manifest itself in the form of depression. In fact, there were rapid and promising results observed in the administration of magnesium among people suffering from depression [8].

As most of us know, the depressive symptoms are common among known alcoholics, especially during the withdrawal period. However, the depression has been reported to disappear during full abstinence, even without  assistance from any medical treatments [9-10]. Despite the lack of relevant support, magnesium can still be used to efficiently and effectively diminish the depressive symptoms that are quite common among alcoholics during and after the withdrawal period.


Because Alcohol consumption depletes magnesium, supplementing with magnesium will help combat some of the negative effects of alcoholism.


  1. Mussalo-Rauhamaa H, Poikolainen K, Kärkkäinen P, Lehto J: Decreased serum selenium and magnesium levels in drunkenness arrestees.Drug Alcohol Depend 1987, 20:95-103.
  2. Shane SR, Flink EB: Magnesium deficiency in alcohol addiction and withdrawal. Magnes Trace Elem 1991, 10(2-4):263-268.
  3. Gullestad L, Dolva LØ, Søyland E, Manger AT, Falch D: Oral magnesium supplementation improves metabolic variables and muscle strength in alcoholics.Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1992, 16:986-90.
  4. Rayssiquier Y, Chevalier F, Bonnet M, Kopp J, Durlach J: Influence of magnesium deficiency on liver collagen after carbon tetrachloride or ethanol administration to rats.J Nutr 1985, 115:1656-1662.
  6. Magnesium & Trace Elements 1991; 10(2-4):263-8.
  7. Rasmussen HH, Mortensen PB, Jensen IW: Depression and magnesium deficiency.Int J Psychiatr Med 1989, 19:57-63.
  8. Eby GA, Eby KL: Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment.Med Hypotheses 2006, 67:362-70.
  9. Dorus W, Kennedy J, Gibbons RD, Ravi SD: Symptoms and diagnosis of depression in alcoholics.Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1987, 11:150-154.
  10. Nakamura MM, Overall JE, Hollister LE, Radcliffe E: Factors affecting outcome of depressive symptoms in alcoholics. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1983, 7:188-193.
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