Background: Alcohol consumption has the potential to affect dietary intakes of nutrients; however, little is known about fatty acid intakes among alcohol consumers in the U.S. population.

Method: We examined the relation between self-reported alcohol consumption and dietary fatty acid intake in 4,168 adults in the cross-sectional National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2002. Fatty acid intake was determined from a single, interviewer-administered 24-hour recall. The adjusted, weighted mean level of dietary fatty acid intakes, as characterized by nutrient density, was calculated as grams of fatty acid per 1,000 kcal of energy consumed according to average daily alcohol consumption and binge-drinking episodes.

Results: Energy intake showed a significant increasing trend across alcohol consumption categories in both genders and binge-drinking categories in men. Women binge drinkers also showed a higher energy intake compared with nonbinge drinkers. Among men, decreased nutrient densities of saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, linoleic, and α-linolenic acids were associated with increasing alcohol consumption. Binge-drinking men but not women had significantly decreased intakes of total saturates, monounsaturates, polyunsaturates and linoleic, α-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic, and docosahexaenoic acid. When alcohol energy was excluded from calculation of nutrient densities, the results were similar to those with alcohol energy included, except that total saturated and monounsaturated fatty acid differences were no longer significant. In addition, there was an inverse relationship among men between binge-drinking frequency and total polyunsaturates, linoleic, α-linolenic, and eicosapentaenoic acids.

Conclusion: Our cross-sectional results suggest that alcohol consumption may impact the dietary intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Given the public health importance of both alcohol consumption and intakes of EFAs, prospective studies of the relation should be considered.