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Could a Few Beers a Week Cut a Woman's RA Risk?

Study finds the brew is helpful, but drinking too much is never warranted, experts say
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Exactly how a little alcohol may reduce a woman's odds for the joint malady is complicated, he said. "The mechanism of action is very complex," Horovitz said, involving immune system activity and other factors.

Dr. Daniel Arkfeld, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, called the findings "astonishing."

He also pointed to prior studies that have linked moderate alcohol intake with lower rheumatoid arthritis risk, but added that none had focused on beer specifically.

It's possible that alcohol may work to boost levels of estrogen, which is protective against rheumatoid arthritis, Arkfeld said.

The new findings might be especially relevant for someone with a family history of the disease, added Dr. Scott Zashin, a rheumatologist in Dallas and a member of the media committee for the American College of Rheumatology.

"The likelihood of someone developing rheumatoid arthritis is not common," Zashin said. "But if you have a family history, your risk increases."

He said that "patients with a family history might enjoy a beer a few times a week if there is no other reason not to drink."

But while imbibing the occasional drink may be good for your health, Horovitz stressed that excessive drinking is never a good idea. Nor is the new finding a reason for people who don't drink beer to start doing so, he said.

Arkfeld offered one more caveat, noting that alcohol does not mix well with certain rheumatoid arthritis drugs due to the risk of liver effects. So in those who already have rheumatoid arthritis, checking with your doctor before upping your alcohol intake is advised, he said.

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