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.
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