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From the Townsend Letter
December 2007


Web Page Potpourri
by Marjorie Roswell

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Here is a small collection of resources, including links to research on nutritional deficiencies prevalent in the sickest of alcoholic patients.

Alcohol and Nutrition
Alcohol and Nutrition is an interesting, brief piece that reflects the yeah-we-know-nutrition-is-important-but-we-don't-really-quite-believe-it approach of our National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The Director of the NIAA offers this tepid commentary in publication: "Renewed research attention to the nutritional aspects of alcohol leaves open the possibility that a role for nutritional therapy in alcoholism treatment may yet be defined."

Community Addiction Recovery Association
Located in Sacramento, California, the Community Addiction Recovery Association was brought to my attention by the terrific editors of the Townsend Letter. The program is a model, adding acupuncture, targeted nutritional supplements, training in healthy meal preparation, and mind-body integration techniques to area programs helping chemically dependent people repair their brains. The director of the program, Carolyn Reuben, wrote in detail about the program, in the January 2007 issue (Also online at Half of the article's content is devoted to a useful list of resources. I do have my qualms: I don't endorse the consumption of whey powder. (See my column on the dangers of dairy:, including the book, The China Study.) I don't expect to change anyone's mind there on this matter (because I know people have strong opinions). Still, I look for the "holy grail," apparently, of programs that integrate nutrition that wasn't processed in a factory (or factory farm). That caveat noted, I'd encourage you to learn from CARA's successes and integrate them into the facilities in your community!

Differential Depletion of Carotenoids and Tocopherol in Liver Disease
(Dec. 2007: Link does not work)
Meanwhile, "Patients with alcoholic cirrhosis (n = 11) had 20- and 25-fold decreases of levels of lycopene (p <0.001) and carotene (p <0.005), respectively."

Blood Plasma Potassium, Sodium, and Magnesium Levels in Chronic Alcoholism During Alcohol Withdrawal
(One link, two lines of it.)
"Blood plasma potassium, sodium, and magnesium levels were studied in 114 chronic alcoholic patients (pts) during alcohol withdrawal. They were abnormal in 88.6% cases."

Hypokalaemia in Alcoholic Patients
"We conclude that hypokalaemia (low potassium) is a relatively common electrolyte abnormality observed in alcoholic patients owing to various pathophysiological mechanisms."

The Role of Thiamine Deficiency in Alcoholic Brain Disease
An informative paper from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends administering thiamine at pharmacological levels to improve cognitive function.

Twinkie Deconstructed [book]
Yes, this may sound like an odd reference to include in this column! But this book by Steve Ettlinger is fabulous, including chapters on vitamins and minerals. In essence, the book describes how almost every ingredient of a Twinkie is made, including the "enriched" part of enriched flour. Take note of the petrochemical sources of many of these vitamins. (Who knew?) I certainly didn't know that thiamine starts out as coal tar. Perhaps our treatment programs should consider implementing nutrition programs that use food as the foundation for improving nutrient levels – not oxidized, reacted, crystallized, and reacted-some-more petrochemical. The largest producer of thiamine, the author notes, is a plant located a few hours north of Beijing, China.

Susceptibility to Hangovers
"The most obvious source of headaches due to hangovers is dehydration."

Project SPORT
In searching for a link between exercise in substance-abuse treatment programs, most of the web resources I found focused on the effect of alcohol on exercise. I did find one study that linked talk-therapy to improvements in both exercise and reduced alcohol consumption. The Florida, Project SPORT study found that "a brief one-on-one consultation (less than 15 minutes) may increase exercise and decrease alcohol and cigarette use among adolescents for up to three months after the intervention, with some positive effects still seen one year later."

The Role of a Physical Fitness Program in the Treatment of Alcoholism

The Effect of Jogging on Physical Fitness and Self-Concept in Hospitalized Alcoholics
These studies specifically address exercise in treating alcoholics. Unfortunately, this sort of research is typically only available as a paid service. Even the abstracts seem to be hard to get, unless you have a subscription.

Physical Exercise to Help with Addiction
Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor John Hendrix recommends exercise for all that ails, including alcoholism.

Finally, I have some questions for you, our readers:

1. Do you know of good alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs that implement nutrition and exercise as core elements of their programs?
2. What's a good approach for transitioning traditional treatment programs towards nutrition and exercise as core approaches?
3. What would the budget look like for making this transition? What are some specific line items in the budget? Shared seating areas for eating? Kitchen equipment such as cutting boards and salad spinners? Part-time custodial help for cleaning up after food demos? Sprouting for inpatient programs? Sneakers?
4. What research supports, or diminishes, the finding that a nutritional and exercise approach will help clients?
5. Do you know of specific web resources that could be used by providers? By alcoholics?

I look forward to your answers and will include those of interest in a future column. I'd love, in particular, to include two sample budgets for bringing nutrition and exercise approaches to treatment programs. I see a gaping hole in most substance-abuse treatment programs where nutrition and exercise belong. I look forward to learning more from our readers about how to effect change in this arena.

Marjorie Roswell
3443 Guilford Terrace, Baltimore, MD 21218


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