Alcohol reduces the severity of rheumatoid arthritis

Drinking alcohol may reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis according to new research. It is the first time that this effect has been shown in humans. The study also finds that alcohol consumption reduces the risk of developing the disease, confirming the results of previous studies.

The first author of the study, Dr James Maxwell…”…found that patients who had drunk alcohol most frequently had symptoms that were less severe than those who had never drunk alcohol or only drunk it infrequently. X-rays showed there was less damage to joints, blood tests showed lower levels of inflammation, and there was less joint pain, swelling and disability. This is the first time that a dose dependent inverse association between frequency of alcohol consumption and severity of RA has been shown in humans.”

Dr Maxwell and his colleagues also found that non-drinkers were four times more likely to develop RA than people who drank alcohol on more than ten days a month…

The authors point out that there are some limitations to their study. These include the fact that they only recorded the frequency rather than the amount of alcohol consumption in the month before people joined the study; there might be bias due to people recalling inaccurately how often they drank alcohol and also the information represents a snapshot of drinking behaviour at one point in time, rather than giving information about fluctuating alcohol consumption over a longer period; and, finally, there were marked differences in age and gender between the RA and the control groups, although the researchers did adjust their results for these factors.

A couple of old mates of mine – in Glasgow and up in the Western Isles – are living proof of this study. And I’m confident they’d be willing to step forward and volunteer for further research.

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