Effects of moderate alcohol consumption on folate and vitamin B(12) status in postmenopausal women

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Nov;58(11):1518-24. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602002.


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 B(12), two vitamins required for DNA methylation and nucleotide synthesis, and thus cell integrity. Although the effects of heavy alcohol intake on folate and vitamin B(12) 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 B(12) 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 B(12), 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 B(12) 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 micromol/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 B(12) status.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking* / adverse effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • DNA Methylation
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / blood*
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Humans
  • Methylmalonic Acid / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status / drug effects*
  • Postmenopause / blood*
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood*


  • Homocysteine
  • Ethanol
  • Methylmalonic Acid
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin B 12