A comprehensive and critical review of the evidence relating magnesium (Mg) deficiency
to alcohol consumption reveals several important types of interactions. First, alcohol
acts acutely as a Mg diuretic, causing a prompt, vigorous increase in the urinary
excretion of this metal along with that of certain other electrolytes. Second, with
chronic intake of alcohol and development of alcoholism, the body stores of Mg become
depleted. During the late stages of alcoholism, the urinary excretion of Mg may become
diminished as a physiological response to reduced intake and reduction of body stores.
A number of aspects of the clinical syndrome of alcoholism contribute to and intensify
that already existing reduction in body Mg stores. Third, a number of manifestations
of alcoholism are believed due to effects of Mg deficiency, and some therapeutic benefit
has been suggested from treatment of alcoholic patients with Mg. Finally, relatively
little attention has been paid to the possible value of Mg administration as a preventive
measure to forestall or minimize the deleterious effects of chronic use of alcohol
or to prevent the development of cancer than can occur in this setting.