IF you drink alcohol at high levels or dependently then you may be at risk of becoming deficient in some of the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function appropriately.  And of course people drink more at Christmas.

Alcoholic drinks contain pure alcohol, water and sugars.  They provide energy but no other nutrients and are sometimes referred to as empty calories.  Alcoholic drinks can make you feel full up and reduce your appetite, making you feel less like eating. When you drink high levels of alcohol, the alcohol can affect how your body digests food and uses nutrients, particularly B-vitamins which are needed for bodily functions. Alcohol can flush B-vitamins from your body and they won’t be able to do their job effectively. Lack of these could lead to anaemia (low red blood cells) and/or brain damage.  

Adults where we live are advised not to drink above 14 units of alcohol per week which should be spread across three or more days.  A pint of lower strength beer (3-4%) has around two units.  An alcopop like WKD has around 1.1 units in a 275ml bottle.  A 175ml glass of 12% wine has 2.1 units with a shot (25mls) of 40% spirits having one unit.  

It is important to note that these 14 units should not be stored up for a binge drinking session at the weekend.  In a practical context for 14 units being spread across three days, this would be equivalent to 2.3 pints of Carling on three days of the week. 
It is very important to note that too much alcohol increases the risk of liver, oesophageal, bowel and breast cancers.  And remember that too much alcohol being converted to ethanol in the liver produces cancer-causing compounds. 

Lee McCusker (BA; MSc; MSc; MSc; ANutr; SENr) is a registered nutritionist from Belfast and can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Email: attentivenutrition@