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Alcohol May Cut Some Arthritis Risk

Study Shows Higher Alcohol Consumption Reduces Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
WebMD Health News

June 15, 2007 (Barcelona, Spain) -- Drinking three or more alcoholic beverages per week may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a study shows.

The study also shows that greater reported alcohol consumption was associated with even lower risks of developing RA. But researchers caution that they are by no means encouraging excessive alcohol consumption.

The findings were presented here at the annual meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) in Barcelona, Spain.

"In terms of RA, alcohol consumption can be good, but in the larger context, there are social consequences and other health problems including liver damage," researcherHenrik Kallberg, a PhD student at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, tells WebMD.

While the exact protective mechanism of alcohol is not known, it may act by reducing inflammation, he says.

Reducing the Risk of RA

The new study included 1,400 people diagnosed with RA and 1,700 controls, aged 18-70. The study participants answered extensive questionnaires on lifestyle factors including alcohol consumption and smoking habits.

In both study groups, the researchers examined a blood DNA marker that increases the risk of developing RA.

Overall, those who reported drinking more than three alcoholic beverages per week had a reduced risk of RA.

Those study participants who drank 10 alcoholic beverages a week received even more protection from RA than their counterparts who drank fewer alcoholic beverages.

The most common alcoholic beverage consumed was wine.

The study found that smoking, which has been shown to increase RA risk, negates some of the protective benefits of alcohol.

"You lower your RA risk from smoking by drinking alcohol, but the risks of smoking still remain," Kallberg says.

Thinking of tying one on?

All things in moderation, cautions Iain McInnes, MRCP, PhD, a professor of experimental medicine and rheumatology at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

"Drink only in moderation according to your local customs," he says. "A high level of alcohol intake can be very dangerous to your health."

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