A wide range of trace elements and vitamins was studied in alcoholic patients admitted for detoxification and in healthy controls. Alcoholic subjects were found to be deficient relative to controls in magnesium and vitamin E, while a relative excess of serum iron and copper, and sweat nickel, was noted. A surprisingly wide range of deficiencies, as compared with standard laboratory ranges, was seen in the control group. This finding emphasizes the need for adequate control groups in nutritional studies of alcoholism, the insufficiency of an adequate diet alone to guarantee adequate nutrition, and the likely high prevalence of undetected nutritional deficiency in the general population. Further research is required on the clinical benefits of nutritional supplementation as part of the treatment of alcoholism, and the value of conventional supplements as a routine treatment is questioned.