Background Chronic alcoholism is associated with increased total serum IgE levels.
Objective The study aimed to investigate the relationship between alcohol intake and both total serum IgE levels and allergic sensitization in a general adult population.
Materials and methods A total of 720 subjects was randomly selected (stratified by age) from the population older than 18 years of A-Estrada (Spain) and invited to participate in the study. From 697 eligible subjects, 469 (67%, median age 54 years, range 18 to 92 years, 44% males, 75% of cases from a rural environment) agreed to participate. A battery of 13 skin prick tests to common aeroallergens was performed in all subjects. Cases with at least one positive test (n = 121, 26%) were considered to have allergic sensitization. The most frequent sensitisers were mites and pollens (24% and 10% of subjects, respectively). Total serum IgE was measured in 465 subjects (99%). Alcohol consumption was registered as the number of standard (approximately 10 g) drinking units habitually consumed per week. A total of 244 subjects (52%) were alcohol consumers (median intake, 14 units/week, range 1 to 147 units/week). Abstainers (n = 225, 48%) constituted the reference category.
Results Alcohol consumption of more than 14 units/week was associated with an increase in serum IgE levels after adjusting for age, gender, allergic sensitization and smoking (P = 0.02). Alcohol consumption was not significantly associated with either overall allergic sensitization or mite sensitization after adjusting for age, gender and smoking. However, alcohol consumption of more than 14 units/week was associated with an increased prevalence of pollen sensitization (adjusted OR 3.15, 95% CI 1.19 to 8.34, P = 0.02).
Conclusion Alcohol consumption above a certain threshold is associated with an increase in total serum IgE levels. Alcohol consumption may also be associated with an increased prevalence of pollen sensitization.
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