1. Male Wistar rats (approximately 200 g) were given distilled water and a semi-synthetic control diet for 6 d. On day 7, 37 kBq 65Zn were administered intramuscularly and the rats were given distilled water, beer, cider, red wine, whisky or ethanol as their only source of fluid. The wine, whisky and ethanol were diluted so that each of the beverages contained a similar ethanol concentration (approximately 30 g/1). Food and fluid intake, growth rate and whole-body 65Zn were measured regularly over 11 d, after which animals were killed and blood haemoglobin (Hb) concentration, liver iron stores and the Zn concentration in testes determined.
2. There were no differences in body-weight gain or food intake between groups but fluid intake for the beer group was considerably higher than that for the other groups.
3. There was a significant effect of the type of alcoholic beverage consumed on whole-body 65Zn retention. Rats given whisky had a smaller daily loss of 65Zn than those given water, beer or cider. The ethanol group also showed a lower rate of 65Zn loss compared with the water group. The observed changes in whole-body 65Zn retention could be explained by an adverse influence of ethanol on Zn absorption from the diet.
4. Blood Hb and testes Zn concentration were similar in all groups but the type of liquid consumed influenced liver Fe levels. The cider group had the lowest liver Fe values and the ethanol group the highest values.
5. It is apparent from the present study that ethanol and alcoholic beverages affect Zn and Fe metabolism, but that the effects of ethanol are moderated by other components of the alcoholic beverages.