Drinking alcohol regularly may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by up to 50%, according to recent research.
Scandinavian researchers conducted two studies, involving 2,750 people, assessing environmental and genetic risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis. 1,650 participants had the disease, and were questioned about their smoking and drinking habits, while blood samples were taken to check for genetic risk factors.
Findings showed that drinking alcohol was linked to a reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis; in fact, the more the subject drank, the lower the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Among regular drinkers, the quartile drinking the most were up to 50% less likely to develop the disease than the half who drank the least. Findings were the same for both men and women. In addition, alcohol cut the risk most in smokers with genetic risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis.
The authors conclude that their research reinforces the importance of lifestyle factors in the development of the disease, and that giving up smoking remains the single most important preventive measure.
They point to recent experimental research by other authors, which shows that alcohol protects against the development and severity of rheumatoid arthritis, although it is not clear exactly how it does this. The study also draws parallels with the links between moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of other inflammatory processes, such as cardiovascular disease.
The study was published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Source: First Ann Rheum Dis 10.1136/ard.2007.086314