ALCOHOL & ARTHRITIS . . . A GOOD COMBO?
Could alcohol consumption actually help ward off arthritis? According to the results of a recent study, it’s quite possible. Dutch researchers recently reported at the 2O1O Annual Meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) in Rome that alcohol consumption appears to be associated with a reduced risk of developing several forms of arthritis. Previous studies have suggested that alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, but the new research extends that finding to several other arthritic conditions, including osteoarthritis, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and spondyloarthropathy, said researcher Diane van der Woude, MD, a resident in internal medicine at Leiden University Medical Center.
Spondyloarthropathies are a family of chronic diseases of joints that usually involve the attachments between the spine and the pelvis. Reactive arthritis, associated with an infection, is a form of arthritis that, in addition to joints, affects many other areas of the body, including the eyes, urethra and skin. Psoriasis is often associated with psoriatic arthritis, which leads to pain and swelling in the joints. The new study involved 997 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis, spondyloarthropathy, or psoriatic arthritis who were enrolled in the Leiden Early Arthritis Cohort. They were compared with 6874 healthy people recruited from another study that was assessing the risk factors for blood clots in the legs. People in both groups were asked at the start of the study if they drank alcohol and how much they drank. When compared with teetotalers, drinkers were: 73% less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis; 69% less likely to develop osteoarthritis; 66% less likely to develop spondyloarthropathy; 62% less likely to develop psoriatic arthritis; 73% less likely to develop reactive arthritis.
The analysis took into account other risk factors for arthritis such as gender, age, body mass index, and smoking. Dr. van der Woude emphasized that the study does not prove cause and effect. Drinking might be a surrogate marker of being more physically fit, or that alcohol consumption may somehow minimize the inflammatory cascade involved in arthritic conditions. Additionally, the overall risk of developing arthritis was similar for light and heavy drinkers, but higher for moderate drinkers. If there were a true protective effect, then heavier drinking would be expected to be associated with a lower arthritis risk. The researchers did not ask whether the alcohol consumed was beer, wine or spirits. This study was presented at a medical conference – the findings are preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.