Regular drinking 'halves risk of arthritis'

Drinking alcohol is not only good for the heart – it is good for the joints too. A regular tipple cuts the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by up to 50 per cent – and the more you drink the greater the protective effect.

Rheumatoid arthritis, caused by swelling in the joints, is a severe, painful condition which affects 500,000 people in the UK. The findings, from two studies in Sweden and Denmark, suggest that alcohol has an anti-inflammatory effect which might protect against similar diseases, the researchers say. They based their findings on more than 2,750 people in the studies who were assessed for genetic and environmental risks for rheumatoid arthritis.

All of the participants – half of whom had the disease – were questioned about their lifestyle, including how much they smoked and drank, and blood samples were taken to check for genetic factors. The arthritis sufferers were matched for age, gender and area of residence with randomly selected members of the public.

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 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.

Rheumatoid arthritis is determined partly by genes and partly by factors such as smoking and drinking, which may either induce or prevent the disease. There is powerful evidence that smoking increases the risk of the disease, which is further increased in people with a certain genetic make-up.

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."

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

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions