08 July, 2011
Could Alcohol Deplete Iron in the Body?
If you consume alcohol in moderation on a daily basis, the benefits to your health can be enormous. According to the Potsdam State University website, moderate alcohol consumption -- two to three 5 oz. glasses of wine or 12 oz. cans of beer -- could reduce your risk of suffering coronary disease, certain cancers and even the common cold. One factor may be alcohol's effect on iron, a crucial element that helps your body transport oxygen through your blood. Alcohol abuse wreaks havoc on the body's iron supply, however, and may lead to serious health consequences.
Iron in your blood's hemoglobin, myoglobin and cytochromes delivers oxygen to the cells in your muscles, brain and other organs. It plays a crucial role in cell division and the production of brain neurotransmitters. If you don't get enough iron, you're likely to suffer anemia, a condition that produces severe fatigue. If your body produces too much iron, you may develop hemochromatosis, which could lead to severe organ damage, arthritis, heart failure or cirrhosis of the liver.
Alcohol and Iron
Though alcohol may lead to decreases in glucose and other essential vitamins and nutrients, its consumption increases your body's stores of iron. In moderate amounts, this increase may be advantageous, particularly if you're genetically predisposed to iron deficiency. However, it's possible to get too much of a good thing.
Effects of Iron Overload
When your blood contains more iron than it can process, the free-floating iron becomes toxic, interfering with cell division and oxidation processes in your body. Iron poisoning may be temporary and lead to relatively harmless symptoms such as headache, diarrhea, fever and hypergycemia. If it goes on too long though, you run the risk of hypotension, seizures, coma or death. You could also develop hemochromatosis, a condition that causes severe organ damage, arthritis, heart failure or cirrhosis of the liver.
If your body is depleted of iron stores, consult your doctor about dietary changes and iron supplements to get your blood iron levels up. Moderate alcohol consumption may help, but alcohol may affect your body in other ways that would negate the benefits of the increased iron stores.
- Potsdam State University: Alcohol Problems and Solutions
- University of Utah: Diseases of Iron Metabolism
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol and Nutrition; October 1993
- University of Sydney; Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Indices of Iron Stores; J.B. Whittfield, et al.; July 2001
- Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images