The risks of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Unlike other abused drugs, chronic alcohol in excess affects many different organ systems, which include the liver, pancreas, heart, and brain (Table 1). Excessive chronic alcohol use also increases the risk of certain cancers. While these risks are apparent among the 7% of US citizens over aged 14 who abuse alcohol, their prevalence is generally no less in countries such as France, Italy, and Spain where drinking wine with meals is considered part of the culture. The organ damage from chronic alcoholism may impact on processes of nutrient assimilation and metabolism, as is the case with chronic liver and pancreatic disease, or may be modulated in large part by nutrient deficiencies, as with thiamine and brain function. This section will consider specific effects of alcohol abuse on certain organs as a background for consideration of specific effects on nutritional status.

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