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Alcohol Alcohol. 2014 Jan-Feb;49(1):45-50. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agt150. Epub 2013 Sep 25.

Antioxidant vitamins and brain dysfunction in alcoholics.

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Corresponding author: Servicio de Medicina Interna, Hospital Universitario, Ofra s/n. Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.



Alcohol induces cytokine secretion by Kupffer cells, which may exert also deleterious effects on distant organs, mediated in part by cytokine-derived increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). It is therefore important to assess antioxidant levels. The objective of this study is to analyse the relation of antioxidant vitamins with brain atrophy and cognitive dysfunction.


In 77 alcoholic patients admitted for withdrawal syndrome, subjected to brain computed tomography (CT), and 19 controls, we determined antioxidant vitamin levels and analysed their relationships with data of brain atrophy and dysfunction. Searching for causes of altered vitamin levels, we also assessed liver function, nutritional status, eating habits, alcohol intake, proinflammatory cytokine (TNF-α, IL-6, IL-8) levels and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels.


Both retinol (vitamin A) and tocopherol (vitamin E) levels were decreased in alcoholics, the former in relation with liver failure, and the latter in relation with triglyceride levels and fat mass. Both were related to data of brain atrophy and cerebellar shrinkage (to which also IL-6 was significantly related).


Among alcoholics, liver function impairment leads to altered serum vitamin A levels, which are related to brain alterations. Vitamin E levels are also decreased, but although in relation with liver function impairment, its decrease seems to be more dependent on nutritional status and irregular eating habits. Both vitamins are lower in patients with cerebellar atrophy and other features related to brain atrophy.

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