After going through many medical articles on the subject, one comes to the definite opinion that a deficiency of magnesium is one of the principal causes of alcoholism. In Nutrition Reviews (July, 1960), "Magnesium Balance in Alcoholics," appears the following (p. 200): "Chronic alcoholics as a group possess a wide spectrum of nutritional deficiencies because they obtain their caloric needs mainly from drinks which are deficient in most nutritional substances except alcohol, water and carbohydrate." Another article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (June, 1963), comprising a study of three experiments with various numbers of people at the Veterans Administration Hospital, at Minneapolis, Minnesota, gives the following: "The serum magnesium content in patients with nutritional cirrhosis is also frequently low. This has been attributed to inadequate dietary intake ... magnesium depletion contributes significantly to the tremor, twitching and tetany, as well as the psychiatric disturbances occurring in chronic alcoholism." It states also: "Magnesium excretion induced by alcohol ingestion as well as poor dietary intake probably contributes to magnesium deficiency in chronic alcoholism ... Following alcohol ingestion under varying dietary conditions, the urinary excretion of magnesium increased strikingly in six of the twelve subjects."
We found a corroboration of this in several other medical papers. In other words it would seem that alcohol is quite a disturbing element when it enters the body. We know that every drink of alcohol removes some of the body's store of vitamin B. Now we see that it also removes some of the magnesium. The question is, what effect does it have on other important vitamins and minerals?
In a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine (February 20, 1964), "Metabolic Effects of Alcohol on the Liver," there is a separate discussion on magnesium metabolism in which it is confirmed that in chronic alcoholism the level of magnesium in the blood is low. But the following is important: "The evidence relating some manifestations of chronic alcoholism to magnesium depletion includes the favorable response to magnesium administration and the positive magnesium balance during the recovery phase of chronic alcoholism." It also mentions the fact that very low levels of magnesium in the blood can lead to hallucinations and delirium tremens. It states further that the authors as well as three other groups of investigators have found that there is a serious loss of magnesium in alcoholism. But the important thing about their work is the favorable effect the taking of magnesium has on the alcoholic.
The final statement in this section of the article is, "The current evidence suggests, therefore, that in addition to poor dietary intake, the hypo-magnesemia [low magnesium] of the alcoholic patient may be due to increased urinary magnesium excretion." In other words, alcoholism probably begins in a diet very low in magnesium, and this can happen easily on a diet of white bread and other refined food products.
An article on magnesium in Annals of Internal Medicine (47:956, 1957), in which alcoholism and magnesium are discussed, contains the following summary: "A clinical syndrome characterized by muscle tremor, twitching and more bizarre movements, occasionally by convulsions and often by delirium, has been described and is considered to be a manifestation of magnesium deficiency. The evidence for this concept is the many similarities to experimental animal magnesium deficiency, the occurrence of low mean serum magnesium concentrations for a group of patients, a positive magnesium balance during treatment, and, finally, the frequently gratifying and sometimes dramatic response to therapy with magnesium salts."
In conclusion, here is a quote from a newspaper column, by Dr. H. L. Herschensohn, in the Arizona Republic, sometime in 1958: "For years Epsom salts was given to persons suffering from acute alcoholism. The good effect was partially due to its cathartic action, but it was also due to the fact that Epsom salts, being magnesium sulphate, makes up for the deficiency of magnesium characteristic of alcoholism.
"In animal experiments, when the magnesium in the blood is decreased, tremors occur similar to delirium tremens ... magnesium is an important part of every cell in the body. It is possible that its deficiency, even in non-alcoholics, may account for some ailments which are difficult to diagnose."
This page was first uploaded to The Magnesium Web Site on January 3, 2001