[Macrocytosis, megaloblastosis and folate status in chronic alcoholics]

M Airoldi, R Fantasia, D Aloigi-Luzzi, C Stefanetti, D Deserò, E Chiodini, A Gobbi
Minerva Medica 1987 June 15, 78 (11): 739-43
The figures obtained in simultaneous radioimmunological assays of serum folate and vitamin B12 concentrations and erythrocyte folate concentration in 74 patients are presented. All these patients had a regular daily intake of over 80 g ethyl alcohol and presented an increase in mean blood cell volume. Most of the patients were males hospitalised with liver disease and/or anaemia. All were given bone narrow needle aspirations and liver biopsies. 46% of the patients presented a reduction in erythrocyte folates but vitamin B12 deficiency was rarely encountered. Megaloblastic transformation of the bone narrow was present in 56% of the alcoholics with reduced erythrocyte folates and in 10% of those with normal folate concentration. No correlation was found between serum and erythrocyte folate concentration and degree of liver damage. Serum vitamin B12 levels were higher in patients with cirrhosis. Inadequate diet was frequently found in the alcoholics with reduced folate concentrations. Due to variations in patient selection it is difficult to compare these data with those of other series but they do seem to confirm the hypothesis that the macrocytosis in most "healthy" alcoholics reflects a direct toxic action of the alcohol on erythropoiesis. In contrast folate deficiency is found among "derelict" chronic alcoholics in whom the vitamin deficiency has often not yet produced megaloblastosis of the bone marrow.

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