Women who drink regularly may need to increase their folate intake to prevent a raised risk of chronic disease, report researchers in a new study.
The researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston note that alcohol interferes with folate metabolism and has opposing effects on the risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Following more than 83,000 women aged between 34 and 59-years-old over a 16-year period, the authors demonstrated that heavy drinkers, consuming more than 30g of alcohol per day, and with folate intake of less than 180ug daily, had the highest risk of heart disease or cancer.
However, the increased risk of major chronic disease associated with heavy drinking was largely diminished among women with a higher folate intake, report the researchers in this month's American Journal of Epidemiology.
This compared to a 1.36 risk ratio for non-drinkers with a folate intake of 400-599 ug daily.
The positive association between heavy alcohol and low folate intake and risk of major chronic disease was most apparent among women younger than age 60 years, they added.
The findings support evidence from the same institutions earlier this year showing that higher intake of folate and possibly vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.This research also noted that adequate levels of folate may be particularly important for women at higher risk of developing breast cancer because of higher alcohol consumption.
Folate, found in foods such as orange juice, leafy greens and fortified breakfast cereals, is also thought to protect heart health although evidence showing its link to homocysteine levels has not yet been fully supported in trials examining a reduction in heart disease.