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Too Much Red Meat May Boost Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Eating lots of it could double your chances of getting autoimmune disease, study says

THURSDAY, Dec. 2, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- If you like to eat hamburgers, steak and other red meat, you might be at increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis, claims a British study in the December issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

The University of Manchester study included 88 people newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in at least two major joints and 176 control subjects without RA. The study found that people who eat a lot of red meat have twice the risk for RA and that people who eat lots of red meat and other meat products had similar high risk levels.

High levels of protein intake from all dietary sources were also associated with increased risk for RA. However, higher levels of dietary fats, including saturated fat, didn't appear to affect risk.

"A high level of red meat consumption may represent a novel risk factor for inflammatory arthritis or may act as a marker for a group of persons with an increased risk from other lifestyle causes. It is unclear whether the association is a causative one," the study authors wrote.

They said that high consumption of red meat may only affect people with a predisposition for RA.

"It may be that the high collagen content of meat leads to collagen sensitization and consequent production of anti-collagen antibodies, most likely in a subgroup of susceptible individuals. Meat consumption may be linked to either additives or even infectious agents, but again, there is no evidence as to what might be important in relation to RA," the authors wrote.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, Dec. 2, 2004
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