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Alcohol Associated With Lower Risk of Arthritis

Doctors Caution Against Drinking Alcohol to Reduce Arthritis Risk
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 18, 2010 -- Alcohol consumption appears to be associated with a reduced risk of developing several forms of arthritis, Dutch researchers reported at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) in Rome.

But doctors caution that people should not take up drinking in an effort to ward off rheumatologic diseases.

Previous studies have suggested that alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, but the new research extends that finding to several other arthritic conditions, including osteoarthritis, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and spondyloarthropathy, said researcher Diane van der Woude, MD, a resident in internal medicine at Leiden University Medical Center.

Spondyloarthropathies are a family of long-term (chronic) diseases of joints that usually involve the attachments between your spine and the pelvis.

Reactive arthritis, associated with an infection, is a form of arthritis that, in addition to joints, affects many other areas of the body, including the eyes, urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body), and skin.

Psoriasis is often associated with psoriatic arthritis, which leads to pain and swelling in the joints.

Drinkers Less Likely to Develop Arthritis

The new study involved 997 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis, spondyloarthropathy, or psoriatic arthritis who were enrolled in the Leiden Early Arthritis Cohort.

They were compared with 6,874 healthy people recruited from another study that was assessing the risk factors for blood clots in the legs.

People in both groups were asked at the start of the study if they drank alcohol and how much they drank.
When compared with teetotalers, drinkers were:

  • 73% less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis
  • 69% less likely to develop osteoarthritis
  • 66% less likely to develop spondyloarthropathy
  • 62% less likely to develop psoriatic arthritis
  • 73% less likely to develop reactive arthritis

The analysis took into account other risk factors for arthritis such as gender, age, body mass index, and smoking.

Arthritis and Alcohol; Interpret Findings With Caution

The study does not prove cause and effect, van der Woude stresses.

It could be that drinking might be a surrogate marker of being more physically fit, or that alcohol consumption may somehow minimize the inflammatory cascade involved in arthritic conditions, she says.

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