A study aimed to establish whether alcohol protects against RA development and to determine whether this effect is influenced by alcohol dose, duration and serological status through systematically reviewing the literature and undertaking a meta-analysis.
Researchers searched Medline/EMBASE (1946 to July 2012. Observational studies were included that were case–control/cohort, examined the relationship between alcohol and RA risk and reported or allowed the calculation of effect size data [odds ratios (ORs)/relative risks (RRs) with 95% CIs] in drinkers vs non-drinkers.
Nine studies (from 893 articles) met the author’s inclusion criteria, comprising six case–control (3564 cases; 8477 controls) and three cohort studies (444 RA cases; 84 421 individuals). A significant protective effect of alcohol on RA risk was observed—summary OR for RA in drinkers vs non-drinkers 0.78 (95% CI 0.63, 0.96). This effect was confined to ACPA-positive RA - summary OR 0.52 (95% CI 0.36, 0.76), with no significant risk reduction seen for ACPA-negative RA - summary OR 0.74 (95% CI 0.53, 1.05). Subgroup analysis by study design identified a significant relationship in case–control but not cohort studies.
The authors conclude that alcohol intake is inversely associated with ACPA-positive RA, suggesting a protective effect. They suggest that as this finding is confined to case–control studies, further research is required with prospective cohort studies incorporating ACPA status to confirm this relationship.
Source: The protective effect of alcohol on developing rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ian C. Scott, Rachael Tan, Daniel Stahl, Sophia Steer, Cathryn M. Lewis and Andrew P. Cope Rheumatology (2013) 52 (5): 856-867. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kes376.
MD, PhD, Research Laboratories, Catholic University, Campobasso, Italy