Tag Archives: Folic Acid

Doctor’s Journal: ‘Alcohol And Health’

Alcohol has been used by mankind since before recorded history. It causes a pleasant slowdown of the nervous system, Lessening inhibition  and loosening the tongue, making it the perfect lubricant for social interaction. Unfortunately, it is a metabolic poison.

Excess alcohol use is common enough to have resulted in its prohibition in the United States in the 20s. The side effects of this prohibition proved worse than its benefits, and alcohol currently enjoys the status of one of the few legally permitted Psychoactive drugs.

After diligently searching for beneficial effects of alcohol, society discovered that mild drinking promotes longevity. It is difficult to drink just the right amount of alcohol, and  There is little doubt that excessive drinking is deleterious to the body.

The liver is the organ responsible for getting rid of alcohol. Unfortunately, liver function gradually declines with age, so that the older you get the less alcohol you can tolerate. 14 drinks a week is the suggested upper limits for alcohol’s benefit, and this number shrinks as you get older.

I became interested in alcohol in the elderly because of a friend whose doctor discovered that his red blood cells were enlarged. This can be due to alcohol in at least two different ways. If you drink too much alcohol, you need less calories, and often have a poor diet as a result. B12 (and folic acid) deficiency can result and may cause large red blood cells.

I also learned that alcohol can directly caused large red blood cells because of the toxic effects on the bone marrow, where Red blood cells are made. The very young also have more difficulty with alcohol. Early in my career I discovered 2 young infants who had convulsions after getting into their parents wine closets. These convulsions turned out to be caused by a low blood sugar which developed because glucose, the common blood sugar, is consumed in the process of burning, or metabolizing, alcohol.

My own use of alcohol has been progressively declining with age. I feel good with less alcohol for a shorter time the older I get.

—Dr. C.


The Idea that lack of certain nutritional factors could cause disease predates the germ theory by hundreds of years. British sailors could be saved from the ravages of SCURVY by a little sour fruit, and were called LIMEYS. Just before the first World War, a “milk factor” was found to be contained in butterfat, and was called Vitamin A.

The factor in “rice polishings”, known for decades to prevent disease caused by a diet exclusively of white, or “polished”rice was called Vitamin B.

Thus the Lettering system of vitamin-naming began. It wasn’t known until just before the Second World War that “vitamin B” was in fact several different substances (B1. B2. etc.), and later yet until these factors were found to be small, non-protein molecules that were “cofactors” in important enzymatic reactions essential in the body.

The metabolic pathways of our Hunter-gatherer ancestors could depend on the DIVERSE FOOD sources of Paleolithic man to supply these vital substances. Therefore, the body did not need to synthesize them, saving energy, but paving the way for future problems.

As a group, B vitamins produce energy from nutrients, support immune function, regulate cell growth, maintain Myelin, and maintain RBCs, among other crucially important things.

Some substances used to be considered B Vitamins, were later found to be synthesized in our bodies: these include Choline, Carnitine, Lipoic acid and PABA.

The latter is essential to Bacteria, leading to the development of the Sulfa Drugs, which Block PABA synthesis. Another pair of substances are so widely present in foods as to be rarely deficient: B5, Pantothenic acid, and B7, Biotin.

Three important, essential B Vitamins, B6, Pyridoxine, B9, Folic acid, and B12, Cyanocobalamin are so intertwined in their effects, they are best considered a unit. For instance, if B9 is supplemented while B12 is deficient, severe neurological problems arise. B6,9 and 12 must be kept balanced.

That leaves B1,B2, and B3, Thiamine, Riboflavin, and Niacin. Thiamine and Niacin deficiencies used to be common, especially when white rice and white flour replaced the more common brown variety, and led to Beri-Beri and Pellagra respectively.

My own Medicine Cabinet used to have the enriched B-vitamins, called B50 and B100 at Trader Joes. To cut down on pills, I switched to a multivitamin rich in most B vitamins. With the additional 4 mg. of Folic acid, I now take 1000% of the MDR of B6, B9 and B12, which I explained in a previous post to be driven by my elevated Homocysteine.

The Medical establishment and much research demeans the “health food nuts” as doing little more than making their toilets healthier. Indeed, research on Vitamin E supplementation has shown to cause cancer, Vitamin D supplementation to be useless, and folic acid supplementation to be potentially bad. Vitamin C supplementation does nothing but increase the likelihood of Kidney stones, etc.

The experiments are performed, and MDRs calculated on GROUPS of people, however, and with the INDIVIDUAL VARIATION in metabolism, with AGING of the human body (research on nutrients rarely includes the Elderly), and the lousy fast foods of the modern diet, I will continue with my supplementation.

In 2 of the vitamins, D and folic acid, B9, I am on firm ground, having blood levels of 25 hydroxy Vitamin D, and Homocysteine respectively to give me a frame of reference.

The truth is that the medical profession is poorly educated in nutrition, has little incentive to improve their knowledge, and has scant spare time to take dietary histories even if they knew more.

Even in the 60s when I routinely had my Patients keep a “diet diary” so I knew what they were eating, most doctors did not think this worth the time.

Educate yourself on SLEEP, DIET and EXERCISE, resolve to practice what you learn, and leave the medical profession to do what they are best at, and paid for: give medicines and perform procedures and surgery.

–Dr. C.


Folic acid has a secure place in my medicine cabinet, and is there for one of the best reasons. In screening for possible causes for heart disease, my doctor ordered a HOMOCYSTEINE LEVEL. The Laboratory value came back elevated.

The treatment given was folic acid. Some background is necessary. Homocysteine is a rather toxic amino acid that can cause heart disease and neurological problems, among other things. If you do not get enough folic acid in your diet with green vegetables, legumes, nuts, eggs and the like (it is hard to be deficient with a good diet), your Homocysteine may become elevated.

You need folic acid to convert Homocysteine to the essential amino acid, Methionine. 10-15% of the population, and up to 30% of older people have elevated Homocysteine levels. Stiffness, slow gait, and heart disease can be related to these elevated levels.

Since I have a good diet, I assume that I have a weak form of an enzyme called Tetrahydrofolate Reductase, which is the rate limiting enzyme in converting Homocysteine to Methionine. A weak enzyme needs more folic acid to do its job. The MDR of Folic acid is 0.4 mg./day. I started supplementing with 1 mg. Daily, without effect on the Homocysteine level. I doubled the dose to 2 mg., and my blood level was still above the upper limits of normal, 15 micromoles/L.. I doubled it again to 4 mg., 2 mg. Twice daily.

Finally my level became normal at 10, This was a decade ago. Recently, I have been doing some research on Alzheimer’s Disease, because a Friend is losing her short term memory. I talked to a neurologist to see if a medical evaluation was mandatory, and found that he has recently BEEN GIVING FOLIC ACID supplements to his AD Patients.

Folic acid deficiency is now being suspected as being a factor in AD! This story is similar to the Vitamin D conundrum. Should I take Vitamin D or not? Am I a “believer” or not. The resolution is easy. You get a Vitamin D blood level.

The lab test will report “normal” if your level is above 20 ng,/ml. I prefer 50, which I achieve with 4000 i.u. Daily supplement. The NFL likes their players to be above 50 to be in best shape. The point is, take a measurement, and then decide.

If you chose to take a Folic acid supplement, I would suggest checking both your Folic acid blood level, and Homocysteine blood level as a reference.

Also, if you take folic (B9) supplements, you should also take extra B12, and B6, since they are involved in the same metabolic pathways. Balance is necessary in metabolism.

–Dr. C