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Alcohol May Protect Against Rheumatoid Arthritis

Risk of the disease decreases as amount of alcohol consumed increases, study finds

FRIDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol consumption reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, particularly in smokers, with the degree of reduction dependent on the amount of alcohol consumed, according to a report published online June 5 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Henrik Kallberg, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues used data from two population-based, controlled studies involving a total of 1,648 rheumatoid arthritis patients, in order to analyze the impact of alcohol intake on risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers looked at alcohol consumption in combination with smoking and HLA-DRB1 shared epitope.

People who consumed more alcohol had a statistically significant lower risk overall of developing rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers found. Among alcohol consumers, the quarter with the highest consumption had a 40 percent to 50 percent decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared with the half of people with the lowest alcohol consumption. The investigators also found that rheumatoid arthritis risk reduction was greater among those who drank alcohol and smoked than among those who drank but did not smoke.

"This [study] highlights the potential role of lifestyle in determining the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, and emphasizes the advice to stop smoking, but not necessarily to abstain from alcohol in order to diminish the risk of rheumatoid arthritis," the authors conclude. "The evidence of potential rheumatoid arthritis prevention should prompt additional studies on how this can be achieved."

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