Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Alcohol may protect against Rheumatoid Arthritis
Further studies are needed to assess the role of alcohol in various rheumatoid diseases, but a study by Myllykangas-Lusojarvi R et al investigated alcohol-related deaths among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with encouraging results.

Subjects, from Finland, for this study were 1666 patients (480men, 1186 women) who had died in 1989 and had been entitled to receive specially reimbursed medication for RA. Causes of death were classified according to ICD-9 by the Statistical Office of Finland where a special file is held for alcohol-related diseases and alcohol intoxication as a cause of death.


Among the 480 men there were 8 alcohol-related deaths and 3 among the 1186 women with RA ( 6 from diseases, 1 from intoxication, 2 from accidents and violence and 2 from fatal accidental falls). The relative risk compared to the Finnish population at large was 0.20 for men and 0.18 for women. The standardized mortality ratio was 0.40 (95% CI 0.20 - 0.80) for men and 0.40 (95% CI 0.13 - 1.26) for women.

Alcohol use either protects from RA or subjects with RA curtail their drinking after developing RA. It is odd to assume that patients with ankylosing spondylitis increase their drinking level while RA patients curtail it. Therefore, the studies findings seem to support the contention that alcohol use protects from RA, however other possibility cannot be excluded.

Source. Myllykangas-Lusojarvi R, Aho K, Kautiainen H,Hakala M. Reduced incidence of alcohol related deaths in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis 59 (2000) 75-76.

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