One or Two Drinks a Day Can Lower Vitamin B
January 21, 1997
Just one or two alcoholic drinks a day can interfere with people's B vitamin
levels, scientists with USDAs
Agricultural Research Service report.
In a study of 41 men and women, blood levels of vitamin B12 dropped when the
volunteers consumed five percent of their daily calories as alcohol. Over the
long term, compromising B12 status could impair memory, giving the impression
of senility where there's no disease. Most Americans get ample B12 in animal
products such as eggs and dairy foods.
Researchers also looked at levels of folate in the blood. Folate helps
transform a substance called homocysteine in the blood into a nontoxic amino
acid. High levels of homocysteine have been linked with risk of heart disease
Folate levels didn't drop with alcohol consumption, but they rose
significantly during the alcohol-free period. Homocysteine levels went down
during the alcohol-free period.
The findings help to settle a long-standing debate over the cause of low B
vitamins in alcoholics. Some health professionals argue that it is due to
alcoholics' poor nutrition, while other attribute it to the alcohol degrading
the vitamins. Both factors appear to contribute.
Scientific contact: Judith Hallfrisch, USDA-ARS
Beltsville Human Nutrition
Research Center, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8396, e-mail