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The Case for Vitamin-Enriched Alcohol

On the surface, vitamin-enriched alcohol sounds like a crazy marketing stunt, but that's not the case here at all. A deficiency of vitamin B1, or thiamine, can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS), a form of beriberi that causes permanent amnesia nd brain damage, and relegates suffers to nursing home care. WKS victims are historically those who are starving from poverty, famine, or imprisonment. Now common foods like bread are fortified with thiamine and other vitamins. In modern America, almost every victim of WKS is severely alcoholic. Those are the ones who would benefit from thiamine-enriched alcohol.  

More than 40 years ago, Brandon Centerwall and Michael Criqui published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine arguing for the fortification of alcoholic beverages with thiamine. According to Centerwall and Criqui, every dollar invested in thiamine fortification saved approximately $7 in nursing home costs. Centerwall later reported that trials by Seagram & Sons, Anheuser-Busch, and the California Wine Institute during the 1930s found thiamine to be stable in whiskey, wine, and beer. And at the levels needed to prevent WKS, thiamine would have no impact on the safety of alcoholic beverages.

So what is stopping thiamine-enriched alcohol? Optics. Some fear that enriched alcohol may be marketed as a health food. Others argue that mitigating the damage of alcoholism might encourage drinking. There are other problem with adding thiamine to alcohol that you can read about at Real Clear Science.

(Image credit: theopie)


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"Acetaldehyde can cause significant damage to the liver because that is where most alcohol is broken down into the toxic by-product. However, some alcohol is metabolized in the pancreas and the brain, where acetaldehyde can also damage cells and tissues.

Small amounts of alcohol are metabolized in the gastrointestinal tract, which can also be damaged by acetaldehyde.
Some researchers believe the effects of acetaldehyde go beyond the damage it can cause to tissues, but might also be responsible for some of the behavioral and physiological effects attributed to alcohol."

No matter which organ breaks the alcohol down, it creates something that is highly toxic and a known carcinogen.
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I still have a newspaper article proclaiming a study showing beer is the healthiest of all beverages. I am an advocate of that to this day. I remember once when it was thought that distilled spirits needed to have nutritional labels. "They" decided it might make them look good for you, and dropped the idea.
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