Nutritional deficiencies in homeless persons with problematic drinking: a systematic review

Nutritional deficiencies in homeless persons with problematic drinking: a systematic review

Background

A significant proportion of homeless people drink alcohol excessively and this can lead to malnutrition and consequent medical problems. The aim of this review was to assess the evidence on the range of nutritional deficiencies in the homeless problem-drinking populations.

Methods

We conducted a comprehensive search of nine scientific literature databases and 13 grey literature sources. We included studies of any design that included homeless population with problem-drinking and reported measures of nutritional deficiencies in urine or blood. Study selection and data extraction was done by one reviewer and checked by another. Data on malnutrition profile were summarized narratively.

Results

We found nine studies reporting nutritional deficiencies in homeless populations with problem-drinking. The oldest study was from the 1950s and the most recent from 2013. The following nutrients were reported across studies: vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9, B12, C, A, and E; haemoglobin; and albumin. The most common deficiencies reported were of vitamin B1 (prevalence of deficiency was 0, 2, 6, 45, and 51% in five studies) and vitamin C (29, 84, and 95% in three studies). None of the studies were assessed to be at a low risk of bias.

Conclusions

The limited, low quality and relatively old evidence suggests that homeless people who drink heavily may be deficient in vitamin C, thiamine, and other nutrients. New, well conducted studies are needed in order to optimally inform public health interventions aimed at improving deficiencies in this population.

JOURNAL: International Journal for Equity in Health
VOLUME: 16
ISSUE: 71
PUBLICATION DATE: 2017