Moderate Drinking May Slow Rheumatoid Arthritis

Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner a few times a week? A new study suggests that it just might keep your arthritis at bay, at least for a while. Scientists in Switzerland have found that people who are light to moderate drinkers experienced a slower progression of joint damage than either teetotalers or those who hit the bottle hard.

Scientists at the University Hospital of Geneva looked at the x-rays of more than 2,900 Swiss adults with rheumatoid arthritis. The x-rays were of their hands and feet, and had been taken over a period of time-four years, on average. The scientists asked the study subjects about their drinking habits, grouping them into non-drinkers, occasional drinkers, those who drank once per day, and heavier drinkers. The findings? The occasional drinkers and those who enjoyed one drink a day had less joint damage over time than the non-drinkers or the heavier drinkers. There was a stronger association between drinking and joint damage in men than in women, which the researchers could not explain. The good news for alcohol abstainers is that the progression of their joint damage compared with that of moderate drinkers was not significant enough to be apparent to them. It was noticed on x-rays, but the teetotaling patients themselves did not seem to be any more bothered by symptoms than did drinkers.

This study provides further support for past studies indicating that moderate drinking lowers the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Animal research also suggests that alcohol plays an inhibitory role in the development of the disease. Moderate drinking also has been credited with reducing the risk of heart disease, but-just as with those studies-there is no recommendation that non-drinkers take up drinking just for the sake of lowering the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. More research is needed to understand exactly how alcohol acts as a disease inhibitor in order for scientists to give the go-ahead to imbibe.

Source: National Institutes of Health,