Role of alcohol in the regulation of iron metabolism

Duygu Dee Harrison-Findik

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Patients with alcoholic liver disease frequently exhibit increased body iron stores, as reflected by elevated serum iron indices (transferrin saturation, ferritin) and hepatic iron concentration. Even mild to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to increase the prevalence of iron overload. Moreover, increased hepatic iron content is associated with greater mortality from alcoholic cirrhosis, suggesting a pathogenic role for iron in alcoholic liver disease. Alcohol increases the severity of disease in patients with genetic hemochromatosis, an iron overload disorder common in the Caucasian population. Both iron and alcohol individually cause oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation, which culminates in liver injury. Despite these observations, the underlying mechanisms of iron accumulation and the source of the excess iron observed in alcoholic liver disease remain unclear. Over the last decade, several novel iron-regulatory proteins have been identified and these have greatly enhanced our understanding of iron metabolism. For example, hepcidin, a circulatory antimicrobial peptide synthesized by the hepatocytes of the liver is now known to play a central role in the regulation of iron homeostasis. This review attempts to describe the interaction of alcohol and iron-regulatory molecules. Understanding these molecular mechanisms is of considerable clinical importance because both alcoholic liver disease and genetic hemochromatosis are common diseases, in which alcohol and iron appear to act synergistically to cause liver injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4925-4930
Number of pages6
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number37
StatePublished - Oct 7 2007


  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • C/EBP alpha
  • Divalent metal transporter 1
  • Ferroportin
  • Hepcidin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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