Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk: Drinking Alcohol Beneficial

Rheumatoid arthritis risk is reduced by drinking alcohol. It can be beer, wine or spirits (liquor). Drinking any or all of these reduces the risk. In moderation, of course.

                   Overview

          1. Common Symptoms
          2. Risk Factors
          3. Research
          4. Resources

rheumatoid arthritis riskRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an incurable inflammatory disease. It’s an autoimmune disorder. The immune system attacks the victim’s own body instead of an infection. Thus the body is attacking itself. But the reasons are unclear.

The target of these attacks is the synovium. That’s the lining of the membranes that surround joints. The inflammation that results from these attacks causes the synovium to thicken. This can destroy the cartilage and bone in the joint.

The ligaments and tendons that hold the joints together stretch and weaken. The joints can then loosen and become mis-aligned.

I. Common Symptoms

    • Joints that are painful, tender, swollen, and warm.
    • Joint stiffness in the morning.
    • More than one joint affected.
    • The same joints on both sides of the body usually affected.

Many people also have other symptoms.

    • Fatigue.
    • Loss of appetite.
    • Loss of weight that is not intended.
    • Low fever.
Progression

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect smaller joints first. Usually in the fingers and toes. Symptoms then tend to spread to the wrists, elbows, and ankles. Then to the knees, hips and shoulders.

The inflammation of RA can also cause problems in other parts of the body.

Eyes. Can be dry, painful, red, sensitivity to light.

Mouth. Can be dryness. Gums can be painful or infected.

Skin. Can have rheumatoid nodules. These are small lumps under the skin over bony areas.

Lungs. Can be Inflamed  and scarred. This causes shortness of breath.

Blood Vessels. Can be inflamed. This causes damage to nerves, skin, and other organs.

Blood. Can have anemia.1

The inflammation of RA can cause heart problems. It can also promote osteoporosis and carpel tunnel syndrome.

II. Risk Factors

    • Gender. Women are almost three times more likely to develop the disease.
    • Age. RA usually develops between the ages of 30 and 60 in women and later in men. But it can begin at any age.
    • Family History. Having RA in a blood relative increases the risk.

A number of other factors are believed to increase the risk of the  disease.

    • Infections.
    • Stress.
    • Exposures to tobacco smoke, air pollution, and insecticides.
    • Exposure at work to silica or mineral oil.

People can’t change their sexual genetics, age or family history. But they can change their lifestyle. Moderate drinking reduces RA risk.

III. Research on Rheumatoid Arthritis Riskrheumatoid arthritis risk

  • “Patients with early arthritis consume less alcohol than controls, regardless of the type of arthritis.2
    The link between drinking and RA risk was studied. Drinking greatly reduced RA risk. The same was true for other forms of the disease. Arthritis patients drank less than controls, regardless of arthritis type.
  • “Long term alcohol intake and risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women. A population based cohort study.”3
    Studied were 34,141 women. There was a 37% decreased RA risk among women who drank over four glasses of alcohol weekly. That was compared to those who either never drank or who had less than one glass per week. Women who drank over three glasses weekly ten years apart had a 52% decrease risk later. That’s in comparison with those who never drank.
  • Smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.”4
    This study looked at RA among postmenopausal women. Those who had more than 14 drinks per week had a 50% reduced RA risk. That’s compared to abstainers.

       Alcohol

  • Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Results from two Scandinavian case-control studies.”5
    A Swedish study used 1,204 cases and 871 controls. A Danish study used 444 cases and 533 controls. Among drinkers, the quarter with the highest consumption levels showed a decreased RA risk of 40-50% . That, when compared to the half with the lowest consumption.
  • “Alcohol, androgens and arthritis.”6
    A cohort of 9,777 Finnish men was studied for 134,083 person years. Potential confounding variables were controlled. An inverse link between alcohol drinking and RA risk was found. That is, drinking was protective against the disease.
  • Alcohol consumption is inversely associated with risk and severity of rheumatoid arthritis.”7
    A study had 873 patients with RA and 1,004 controls. Drinking reduced both the risk and severity of the disease. As the frequency of drinking increased the risk of RA dropped. Abstainers had four times the RA risk of those who drank more than ten days a month.

       Young Women

  • “Lifestyle and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis: cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.”8
    A study used data from 135 young women with recent-onset RA. It compared them with 378 controls. The risk of RA in women who consumed alcohol at least once a day was reduced by 48%.
  • Associations of smoking and alcohol consumption with disease activity and functional status in rheumatoid arthritis.”9
    A study of 662 patients with RA followed them for an average of four years. Researchers found that moderate drinking was linked to better functioning.
  • Increased alcohol intake associated with decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.”10
    This study examined persons age 18-70 and controls. Having three drinks weekly reduced RA risk. Consuming ten drinks per week gave even more protection.
  • Reduced incidence of alcohol related deaths in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis.”11
    Analysis was done of data from 1,666 RA patients in Finland. It found that drinking was linked with a lower RA risk.

       Large Studyrheumatoid arthritis risk

  • “Alcohol consumption and risk of incident rheumatoid arthritis in women. A prospective study.”12
    This study analyzed data from two prospective cohorts. They had a total of 238,131 female nurses. It yielded 3,680,000 person years of data. Compared to abstaining, drinking in moderation greatly reduced RA risk.
  • The protective effect of alcohol on developing rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”13
    Researchers analyzed data from nine studies. There were six-case control and three cohort studies. They found a large protective effect of alcohol on RA risk in the case-control.  But not in the cohort studies.
  • “Alcohol consumption as a preventive factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.”14
    Researchers studied data from eight prospective studies. They involved 195,029 people and 1,878 cases of RA. Light to moderate drinking reduced RA risk. It did so for both men and women. Such drinking for at least 10 years reduced the risk of the disease by 17%.
Endnotes

1 Arthritis Foundation. RA Symptoms.

2 Huidekoper, A., et al. Patients with early arthritis consume less alcohol than controls, regardless of the type of arthritis. Rheu., 52 (9), 1701-1707.

3 Di Giuseppe D., et al. Long term alcohol intake and risk of RA in women. Brit. Med. J., 345:e4230.

4 Voigt L., et al.  Smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, and the risk of RA. Epi., 5(5), 525-32.

5 Kallberg, H., et al. Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased risk of RA. Ann. Rheu. Dis., 68(2), 222-228.

6 Aho, K. and Heliovaara, M. Alcohol, androgens and arthritis. Ann. Rheu. Dis., 52(12), 897.

7 Maxwell, J., et al. Alcohol consumption is inversely associated with risk and severity of RA. Rheu., 49(11), 2140-2146.

8 Hazes, J., et al. Lifestyle and the risk of RA. Ann. Rhe. Dis., 49(12), 980-982.

9 Lu, B., et al. Associations of smoking and alcohol consumption with disease activity and functional status in RA. J. Rheu., 41(1), 24-30.

10 Turesson, C. Increased Alcohol Intake Associated with Decreased Risk of Developing RA. (Abstract) Paper at the European Congress of Rheumatology. Barcelona, Spain. June 13-16, 2017.  European League Against RA, June 15, 2007. See Drinking Alcohol May Reduce Risk of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.

11 Myllykangas-Lusojarvi, R., et al. Reduced incidence of alcohol related deaths in subjects with RA. Ann. Rheu. Dis., 59, 75-76.

12 Lu, B., et al. Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Incident RA in Women. Arth. & Rheu., 66(8), 1998-2005.

13 Scott, I., et al.  The protective effect of alcohol on developing RA. Rheu., 52(5), 856-67.

14 Jin, Z., et al. Alcohol consumption as a preventive factor for developing RA. Ann. Rheu. Dis., 73, 1962-1967.