Two Scandinavian studies indicate that alcohol consumption decreases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by up to 50%. The studies included 2,750 people who were assessed for environmental and genetic risk factors for RA.
More than half of the participants had rheumatoid arthritis while the non-RA group were selected randomly from the general population and had a similar distribution of age, sex and residence.
The study groups completed surveys related to lifestyle, including alcohol consumption and smoking. They also had blood samples taken to test for genetic risk factors.
The results revealed that alcohol consumption was associated with a substantially reduced risk of development of rheumatoid arthritis. It also showed that the risk decreased as the amount of alcohol consumed increased.
Among the regular drinkers, the top 25% in terms of alcohol consumed were 50% less likely to develop RA. This was true for both women and men. The highest reduction in risk was in those who smoked and also had risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers stated that these studies reinforce the idea that lifestyle factors have a significant impact in the development of rheumatoid arthritis, and that quitting smoking is still the most importance step in reducing risk.
These studies were also compatible with previous studies that showed that alcohol consumption helps protect against the development and the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.
This research was published in the June 5th issue of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.