Two studies from Demark and Sweden have found that drinking alcohol is not only good for your heart – it’s good for your joints too. A regular drink cuts the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by up to 50 percent – and the more you drink the greater the protection.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 500,000 people in the UK. The new findings suggest that alcohol has an anti-inflammatory effect which might protect against similar diseases The researchers came to the conclusion after 2,750 people were assessed for genetic and environmental risks for rheumatoid arthritis.
Each of those involved – half of whom had the disease - were asked questions about the lifestyle they led, including how much they smoke and drank. Blood samples were taken from each of the participants to check for genetic factors.
The research found the heaviest drinkers downed 24 units on average a week, equivalent to 12 pints of beer or two and a half bottles of wine. The Danes consistently drank a third more than the Swedes. The results showed that among those who drank regularly, people with the highest consumption had the lowest risk of developing the disease.
In the Swedish study, the quarter with the highest consumption had a 50 per cent reduced risk compared with the half who drank the least. In the Danish study, the heaviest drinkers were 40 per cent less likely to get the disease than the lighter drinkers.
The effect was the same for men and women though women are twice as likely to be affected by the disease.
The findings, published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, reinforce the importance of lifestyle in development of the disease, the researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm say. They point to a recent study in which arthritis in mice was reduced by alcohol but admit they do not know how the protective effect is achieved.
Professor Robert Moots of the Arthritis Research Campaign said: “There is no doubt drinking too much is very bad for our health in many ways and these risks far outweigh any potential benefit for reducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Alcohol in excess can be especially dangerous in patients taking some anti-rheumatoid drugs.”
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