Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Alcohol may prevent rheumatoid arthritis
Regular drinking may halve your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to research presented at the annual European Congress of Rheumatology in June, which showed drinking between three and ten units of alcohol a week had clear protective effects.

Henrik Kallberg of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said his research showed consuming three or more units was associated with a 50% drop in the risk in developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). That was enough to offset the risk of developing RA caused by smoking or genetic factors, according to his analysis of 2,075 Swedes with and without the crippling joint disorder.

Although more work is needed to unravel the science behind the connection, Kallberg states it was likely that alcohol suppressed the immune system and damped down the inflammatory process behind the condition.

“These data now show not only that alcohol can protect against RA and reduce the risk conferred by smoking or susceptible genes, and also give an idea of the relevant doses necessary,” stated the authors.

Tore Kvien, president of the European League Against Rheumatism, said the findings were very interesting but needed to be confirmed by other studies.

RA, which is distinct from the more common osteoarthritis, is a degenerative inflammatory disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks joint tissues, leading to swelling, tenderness and increasing disability. It affects more than 20 million people worldwide.

To view the full press release from the conference, please visit

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