Researchers Find that Alcohol Intake May Reduce the Severity and Onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis

In a study of 873 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), researchers
found that patients who dram alcohol most frequently had symptoms that were
less severe than those who drank infrequently. The study also finds that
alcohol consumption reduces the risk of developing the disease, confirming the
results of previous studies.

The study which is published online in the journal
Rheumatology, compared those 873 patients with RA and compared
them with 1004 people without RA. The researchers, led by Gerry Wilson,
professor of rheumatology at the University of Sheffield in the UK, asked the
two groups how frequently they had drank alcohol in the month preceding their
inclusion in the study. The study participants completed a detailed
questionnaire, underwent x-rays and blood tests, and had an exam on their

“X-rays showed there was less damage to joints. Blood tests showed
lower levels of inflammation, and there was less joint pain, swelling and
disability. This is the first time that a dose dependent inverse association
between frequency of alcohol consumption and severity of RA has been shown in
humans,” James Maxwell MD, first author of the study, stated in a press

Maxwell, a consultant rheumatologist at the Rotherham Foundation NHS
Trust and an honorary senior clinical lecturer in the Academic Rheumatology
Group at the University of Sheffield, and colleagues also found that
non-drinkers were four times more likely to develop RA than people who drank
alcohol more than 10 days a month. The risk of developing RA decreased
according to the frequency of alcohol consumption.

“This finding agrees with the results from previous studies that
have shown a decreased susceptibility to developing RA among alcohol
drinkers,” Maxwell stated.

It is not fully understood why drinking alcohol should reduce the
severity of RA and people’s susceptibility to developing it.

“There is some evidence to show that alcohol suppresses the
activity of the immune system, and that this may influence the pathways by
which RA develops. We do know that the changes in the immune system that lead
to RA happen months and maybe even years before the arthritis actually
develops,” Maxwell stated. “Once someone has developed RA, it’s
possible that the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of alcohol may play a
role in reducing the severity of symptoms.”

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