Our aim was to investigate the relationship between alcohol consumption and iron overload, iron deficiency, or iron deficiency anemia in the U.S. population.
Adult participants of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who did not consume alcohol (n = 8839) were compared with participants who consumed < or =1 (n = 4976), >1 to < or =2 (n = 1153), or >2 (n = 915) alcoholic drinks/day during the preceding 12 months. We examined the following markers of iron overload: elevated serum transferrin-iron saturation (TS) level (>45%, >50%, and >60%), elevated serum ferritin level (>300, >400, >500, and >600 ng/mL), and combinations of both elevated serum TS and ferritin levels. Iron deficiency was defined as the presence of at least 2 of the following: serum ferritin level <12 ng/mL, serum TS level <15%, and erythrocyte protoporphyrin level >1.24 micromol/L. Iron deficiency anemia was defined as the presence of both iron deficiency and anemia.
Compared with nondrinkers, the prevalence of all markers of iron overload was significantly elevated among those who consumed >2 alcoholic drinks/day after adjusting for potential confounders. Consumption of any amount of alcohol was associated with a 40% reduction in the risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Consumption of up to 2 alcoholic drinks/day seems to be associated with reduced risk of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia without a concomitant increase in the risk of iron overload. Consumption of >2 alcoholic drinks/day is associated with a significant elevation in the risk of iron overload.