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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)



* Not a rare disease

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Your Question

Is moderate alcohol consumption harmful for individuals with hemochromatosis? What might cause ferritin levels to increase despite a low-iron diet?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

Is alcohol consumption harmful for individuals with hemochromatosis?

Studies have reported that excessive alcohol consumption can make the symptoms of hemochromatosis worse and therefore may increase the risk of cirrhosis and cancer.[1] In one study, it was reported that individuals with hemochromatosis who drink several drinks per day are approximately 9 times more likely to develop cirrhosis than those who drink less.[2727] Individuals with hemochromatosis who have liver problems may be advised to avoid alcohol.[2]

Last updated: 11/22/2010

What affects the amount of iron the body absorbs?

Iron absorption refers to the amount of dietary iron that the body obtains and uses from food. Individual absorption is influenced by several factors including how much iron is stored and the type of dietary iron consumed. Meat proteins and vitamin C will increase the absorption of iron, while tannins (found in tea), calcium, polyphenols, and phytates (found in legumes and whole grains) can decrease absorption of iron.[3]

A ferritin test indirectly measures the amount of iron in your blood. The amount of ferritin in your blood (serum ferritin level) is related to the amount of iron stored in your body.[4] An individual's healthcare provider can address how one's own diet may be affecting serum ferritin levels.
Last updated: 11/22/2010

  • Scotet V, Mérour MC, Mercier AY, Chanu B, Le Faou T, Raguénes O, Le Gac G, Mura C, Nousbaum JB, Férec C.. Hereditary hemochromatosis: effect of excessive alcohol consumption on disease expression in patients homozygous for the C282Y mutation.. American Journal of Epidemiology. July 15, 2003; 158(2):129-134.
  • Kris V Kowdley, Jonathan F Tait, Robin L Bennett, Arno G Motulsky . HFE-Associated Hereditary Hemochromatosis. GeneReviews. December 4, 2006; Accessed 11/22/2010.
  • National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron. August 24, 2007; Accessed 11/19/2010.
  • Todd Gersten. Ferritin. MedlinePlus. January 28, 2010; Accessed 11/21/2010.
  • Fletcher LM, Dixon JL, Purdie DM, Powell LW, Crawford DH. Excess alcohol greatly increases the prevalence of cirrhosis in hereditary hemochromatosis. Gastroenterology. February 2002; 122(2):281-289. Accessed 11/19/2010.
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.