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Effects of moderate alcohol consumption on folate and vitamin B12 status in postmenopausal women

Abstract

Background: Although alcohol intake has been positively associated with breast cancer risk in epidemiologic studies, a causal relationship has not been established, and the mechanisms mediating this association are speculative. Alcohol may act through altered status of folate and vitamin B12, two vitamins required for DNA methylation and nucleotide synthesis, and thus cell integrity. Although the effects of heavy alcohol intake on folate and vitamin B12 status have been well-documented, few studies have addressed the effects of moderate alcohol intake in a controlled setting.

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the effects of moderate alcohol intake on folate and vitamin B12 status in healthy, well-nourished, postmenopausal women.

Design: The study design was a randomized, diet-controlled crossover intervention. Postmenopausal women (n=53) received three 8-week alcohol treatments in random order: 0, 15, and 30 g/day. Treatment periods were preceded by 2–5-week washout periods. Blood collected at baseline and week 8 of each treatment period was analyzed for serum folate, vitamin B12, homocysteine (HCY), and methylmalonic acid (MMA) concentrations.

Results: After adjusting for body mass index (BMI), a significant 5% decrease was observed in mean serum vitamin B12 concentrations from 0 to 30 g of alcohol/day (461.45±30.26 vs 440.25±30.24 pg/ml; P=0.03). Mean serum HCY concentrations tended to increase by 3% from 0 to 30 g of alcohol/day (9.44±0.37 vs 9.73±0.37 μmol/l; P=0.05). Alcohol intake had no significant effects on serum folate or MMA concentrations.

Conclusions: Among healthy, well-nourished, postmenopausal women, moderate alcohol intake may diminish vitamin B12 status.

Sponsorship: NCI, NIH and ARS, USDA.

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Acknowledgements

The participation of study subjects from the areas around Beltsville, MD is greatly appreciated. Funding for this research was made available by the NCI, NIH and ARS, USDA.

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Guarantor: PR Taylor

Contributors: PRT was the principal investigator for the parent study, JTJ and DJB were co-principal investigators, WSC was the research nurse, and EDB was the project coordinator for the study. TJH formulated the hypothesis. PRT, TJH, DJB, JTJ, JFD, BAC, WSC, EDB, and DA contributed to the study design and data collection. EWG was responsible for the serum analyses. EML, TJH, and PRT contributed to the statistical analysis. EML, TJH, EWG, DJB, JTJ, JFD, and PRT contributed to interpretation of the results. EML and TJH were responsible for writing the report.

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Correspondence to T J Hartman.

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Laufer, E., Hartman, T., Baer, D. et al. Effects of moderate alcohol consumption on folate and vitamin B12 status in postmenopausal women. Eur J Clin Nutr 58, 1518–1524 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602002

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602002

Keywords

  • alcohol
  • folate
  • vitamin B12
  • homocysteine
  • methylmalonic acid
  • postmenopausal women

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