Drink up – alcohol cuts arthritis risk, study finds
LONDON — Regular alcohol consumption provided protection against rheumatoid arthritis and its painful effects, British researchers found in the first study to show the link in humans.
Nondrinkers were four times as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than people who drank alcohol on more than 10 days a month, according to the research published online Wednesday by the journal Rheumatology.
Arthritis patients who drank regularly had less severe symptoms than nondrinkers, the study found.
There is no known cause or cure for rheumatoid arthritis, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said. The disease occurs when the immune system attacks the joints, causing pain and swelling and potentially leading to severe disability and early death. Alcohol blunts the activity of the immune system, and more research is needed to determine how that process works, the researchers said.
“We know that alcohol reduces immune activity at least to some extent, and suspect that this is the main reason that alcohol consumption is associated with a reduction in severity” of rheumatoid arthritis, James Maxwell, a rheumatologist at the Rotherham Foundation NHS Trust and author of the study, said in an emailed statement. “Alcohol may also have a mild painkilling effect.”