October 29, 2003
Epidemiologic study shows folic acid deficiency in women with a daily alcohol consumption of 2-3 drinks and thereby increased risk of chronic joint disease, coronary disease (blood clots) and breast cancer.
Women who drink 2-3 glasses of red wine or more daily have an increased risk of developing chronic joint disorders, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer due to lack of folic acid.
A study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston shows that daily alcohol consumption not only reduces the effects of folic acid, but also significantly increases the risk of disease.
The researchers, who have just published the study in an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology, have followed approx. 83,000 women aged between 34 and 59 over a period of 16 years.
The researchers found the highest risk of getting cardiovascular disease and breast cancer in women who received only a small amount of folic acid – 180 micrograms – daily, and who also had a high alcohol consumption of 30 grams of alcohol a day or 2.5 Danish unit of alcohol. The greatest risk was found in women under 60 years of age.
Conversely, women who did not drink alcohol and received a lot of folic acid – 400-599 micrograms daily – had the lowest risk of developing the same diseases.
Against this background the Vitality Council comes with a call for women who drink more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day or 17-18 units of alcohol a week. Partly to reduce the intake of alcohol in accordance with the Danish Health and Medicines Authority’s recommendations and partly to take an extra supplement of folic acid:
“To prevent the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, women with a daily alcohol consumption should consider taking a folic acid supplement,” says Vitality Council Chairman, Specialist in general medicine, Claus Hancke.
“Thus, we do not want to encourage women to continue drinking. As the risk is significantly increased and the statistics show that about 15 percent or every sixth woman in the age group drinks more than the National Board of Health’s recommended maximum of 14 units of alcohol per week, one should take this seriously” the chairman of the Vitality Council points out.
As it is difficult to get enough folic acid through the diet, it is recommended to take a vitamin pill or a multivitamin tablet with folic acid. In the diet, especially vegetables like broccoli and kale are rich in folic acid.
The Danish National Board of Health already recommends pregnant women take approx. 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent spina bifida in children.
By. Vitality Council
American Journal of Epedemiology 2003;158:760-771.