||BACKGROUND: Little is known about associations between alcoholic beverage consumption, nutrient intakes, and diet quality, although each has been independently associated with chronic disease outcomes. OBJECTIVE: This study examines cross-sectional relationships between alcoholic beverage consumption, nutrient intakes, and diet quality (Healthy Eating Index-2005 [HEI-2005] scores) in the US adult population. METHODS: Data were from four cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2006). Weighted multiple regression analyses, adjusted for age, race/ethnicity, education, smoking status, and body mass index included 8,155 men and 7,715 women aged >or=20 years who reported their past-year alcoholic beverage consumption and 24-hour dietary intake. Alcoholic beverage consumption was defined by drinking status (never, former, current drinker) and, among current drinkers, by drinking level (number of drinks per day, on average: men <1 to >or=5; women <1 to >or=3). RESULTS: Among men, there was no association between drinking status and intakes of energy, most nutrients, or total HEI-2005 score. Among women, former and current (compared to never) drinkers had significantly higher intakes of energy and several nutrients, and current drinkers had significantly lower total HEI-2005 scores (current drinkers 58.9; never drinkers 63.2). Among current drinkers of both sexes, as drinking level increased, intakes of energy and several nutrients significantly increased, whereas total HEI-2005 scores significantly decreased (from 55.9 to 41.5 in men, and from 59.5 to 51.8 in women). CONCLUSIONS: Among men and women, increasing alcoholic beverage consumption was associated with a decline in total diet quality as measured by the HEI-2005, apparently due to higher energy intake from alcohol as well as other differences in food choices. Educational messages should focus on nutrition and chronic disease risk associated with high consumption of alcoholic beverages and poor food choices, including excessive energy intake.