Alcohol eases rheumatoid arthritis: study

Drinking alcohol may help reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis and cut the risk of developing the painful and crippling disease, a study published Wednesday has shown for the first time.

Researchers led by Gerry Wilson, a professor at the University of Sheffield in Britain, asked 873 arthritis patients and a control group of 1,004 people how frequently they had consumed alcohol in the previous month.

The participants also completed a detailed questionnaire, were given X-rays and blood tests, and had their joints examined.

"We 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," said lead author James Maxwell, a rheumatologist at the Rotherham Foundation NHS Trust.

X-rays showed less damage to joints, and blood tests showed lower levels of inflammation, according to the report, published in the journal Rheumatology.

There was also less pain, swelling and disability.

Earlier studies had reported similar results in rodents, but this is the first to show that arthritis symptoms diminish in humans in proportion to the frequency of alcohol consumption.

The researchers found that non-drinkers were four times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis that people who drank alcohol on more than ten days a month.

They cautioned that any possible benefits from alcohol consumption in relation to rheumatism must be weighed against all the well-known health consequences of immoderate drinking.

The findings held equally true for women and men, and for two distinct forms of the disease, one called anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) and the other known simply as "negative".

"Anti-CCP antibodies are not present in most 'normal' people without arthritis," explained Maxwell.

Previous research has shown that these antibodies develop prior to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, and are likely linked to the process which causes the disease.

Some patients don't develop anti-CCP antibodies, but the symptoms are much more severe in those that do.

The scientists could only speculate as to why alcohol helped reduce symptoms and risk.

"There is some evidence that alcohol suppresses the activity of the immune system, and that this may influence the pathways by which rheumatoid arthritis develops," Maxwell said.

Once the disease has developed, it is also possible that drinking may act as a pain killer, he added.

One limitation of the study is that it did not measure how much people drank, only the frequency. It also relies on people's memories, and does not report long-term drinking habits.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about one percent of people in the United States and Europe, mainly in older populations. Incidence appears to be somewhat lower in Asia, suggesting that genetics may play a role.

Exactly what causes the disease remains a mystery, and there is no known cure.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing