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June 25, 2008

Alcohol Use, Thiamine Deficiency, and Cognitive Impairment

JAMA. 2008;299(24):2853-2855. doi:10.1001/jama.299.24.2854-a

To the Editor: In his consideration of an elderly man with memory loss and neuropathy, Dr Brust1 discussed Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, sometimes known as cerebral beriberi. Brust mentioned the patient's alcohol intake as a possible precipitant. I would like to add 2 points.

First, Brust noted the relatively high prevalence of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome in Australia. Flour and bread were not fortified with thiamine in Australia as early as in other countries. An expert committee in Australia had studied the question and concluded that the average Australian diet contained enough thiamine, although it recognized that Australian alcoholics were not consuming enough thiamine.2