June 5, 2008 / 7:24 PM / 11 years ago

Moderate drinking may ward off arthritis

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Two Scandinavian studies indicate that moderate alcohol consumption may lower the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Henrik Kallberg, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and his associates evaluated data from a study in Denmark comparing 444 people with rheumatoid arthritis to 523 similar people without arthritis (controls), and a study in Sweden involving 1204 rheumatoid arthritis cases and 871 controls.

In both studies, the average number of alcoholic drinks consumed per week was lower among the people with arthritis than the comparison subjects — 2.9 vs 4.1 in the Swedish study, and 6.6 vs 9.0 in the Danish study — the investigators report in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The likelihood of having rheumatoid arthritis was reduced by about 40 percent to 50 percent among subjects with the highest consumption of alcohol compared to those with the lowest consumption.

In both studies, the risk reduction with alcohol consumption was more pronounced among people who had ever smoked than among never-smokers.

“The main message remains that cessation of smoking is the most effective way to diminish the risk of rheumatoid arthritis,” Kallberg and his associates conclude, “but that this recommendation should not necessarily be combined with a recommendation to stop moderate alcohol consumption.”

SOURCE: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, online June 5, 2008.

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