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Sugary Drinks and Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked?

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WebMD Health News

Nov. 1, 2013 (San Diego)- Women who drink one or more sugar-sweetened sodas a day might raise their risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis, according to a new study that links RA risk to the sugary habit. The study does not prove cause and effect.

Other studies have linked sugary drinks to higher risks of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, among other health problems.

The new study is believed to be the first to look at sugary beverages and RA. It did not include diet sodas.

About 1.3 million Americans have RA, a chronic and potentially disabling disease that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, and limits how well they work.

''We found an association only for sugar-sweetened beverages," says Yang Hu, a researcher at Harvard School of Public Health who conducted the study. Hu presented the findings this week at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting.

The link does not mean that sodas cause RA, Hu says. He says drinking sodas could reflect other lifestyle habits known to boost RA risk, such as smoking.

The American Beverage Association, an industry group, disputes the findings.

Sodas & RA: Study Details

Hu and his colleagues looked at data from two large studies of nurses, which have evaluated diets and other data for decades.

Hu looked at the diet and other health information from about 173,000 women during two different time periods. Every 4 years, the women reported how many sugary beverages they drank. This included regular colas with sugar, caffeine-free colas with sugar, and non-cola sodas. Diet soda was not included.

During the time periods studied, 883 women were diagnosed with RA. Hu found those who drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day, compared to those who drank either none or less than one a month, had a higher risk of getting a form of RA known as seropositive. It is often a more severe form of the disease.

The way the study was done has limitations. People often don’t accurately remember  what they ate or drank in the past.

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