Findings from two studies in Sweden and Denmark, suggest that alcohol has an anti-inflammatory effect which might protect against rheumatoid arthritis. Henrik Kallberg and colleages of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, based their findings on more than 2,750 people in the studies who were assessed for genetic and environmental risks for rheumatoid arthritis.
All of the participants half of whom had the disease were questioned about their lifestyle, including how much they smoked and drank, and blood samples were taken to check for genetic factors. The arthritis sufferers were matched for age, gender and area of residence with controls. The heaviest drinkers consumed 24 units on average a week. The Danes consistently drank a third more than the Swedes.
In the Swedish and Danish studies, participants who had a moderate alcohol consumption were 40 and 45% less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis compared with people who did not drink or drank only occasionally. Among those who had a high consumption, the risk was reduced by 50 and 55% respectively.
The biggest benefits were seen among smokers with a genetic profile known to make them vulnerable to the disease.
Researcher Dr Kallberg stressed the most important finding of the study was that smoking was a very significant risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis, reinforcing findings from previous studies.
However, he added: “In addition, it is important to know that moderate alcohol consumption is not deleterious and may in some contexts be beneficial concerning risk for future onset of rheumatoid arthritis.”
Source: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis: results from two Scandinavian case-control studies H. Kallberg et al.