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What Is the Connection between Folic Acid and Alcohol?

By Debra Barnhart
Updated May 17, 2024
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Alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize folic acid, which is a key nutrient for human health. Folic acid deficiency, which has a number of symptoms, may lead to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer, especially for women. The human body needs to restock its stores of folic acid every day, and a person can ensure adequate folic acid intake by eating a variety of foods or taking a vitamin supplement.

A deficiency in folic acid and alcohol consumption, especially over-consumption of alcohol, can have serious consequences. Research indicates that alcohol hinders the body’s ability to use folic acid. This important nutrient assists the body in manufacturing red blood cells and DNA, and deficiency can lead to a number of potential problems.

A lack of folic acid may cause megaloblastic anemia, a condition in which there is a shortage of red blood cells in the body. This disorder can produce a host of symptoms like weakness, headaches, irritability and heart palpitations. Experts also believe that long-term folic acid deficiency may contribute to an increase in chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer. Folic acid is especially crucial for pregnant women, as experts advise that it reduces the chance of birth defects and may help to counteract low birth weight and premature birth.

Some research indicates that women may be more susceptible to the effects of a deficiency in folic acid and alcohol consumption. Alcohol impacts women more rapidly than men, possibly due to the interaction between estrogen and alcohol. Researchers postulate that women may also be more vulnerable to alcohol’s ability to obstruct folic acid absorption. According to experts, women should especially avoid a deficiency in folic acid and alcohol over-consumption. They should be careful to monitor their diet and take supplements if necessary.

From the Latin word, folium, for leaf, folic acid is also known as folate and B-9. Folate, which is the natural form of folic acid is found in several foods. As its name indicates, green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are a good source of folate. Asparagus, beans, citrus fruits and nuts are good sources as well, as are some animal products like liver.

The body can accumulate some amounts of folic acid, but its stock needs to be replenished each day. Folic acid is also available in vitamin supplements in its synthetic form, B-9. Estimates of daily requirements for folic acid vary, and some experts recommend 400 micrograms a day for pregnant women. With the need for this nutrient, folic acid and alcohol are not a good combination.

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