Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system uses its own antibodies to attack joints, causing pain and swelling and loss of function in joints. The causes of the disease aren't known, but researchers suspect there is a strong genetic component as well as lifestyle risks.
Dr. John Hardin, the chief science officer for the Arthritis Foundation, said he wasn't surprised by the finding that alcohol could help prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
"This study brings attention to the fact that there are environmental factors that trigger rheumatoid arthritis," he said.
There are a variety of environmental factors that can either promote the disease or help prevent it, Hardin said. "What this means to me is that things that cause an inflammatory state in the body are a hazard requiring rheumatoid arthritis," he said.
"We know that smoking is one of the things associated with a systemic inflammatory response," Hardin said. "We also know that alcohol is a mild anti-inflammatory."
Hardin was cautious, however, about recommending drinking to stave off rheumatoid arthritis. "This study should not be construed as a license to go drink, because there are serious hazards associated with excess alcohol intake," he said.
To learn more about rheumatoid arthritis, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Henrik Kallberg, MSc, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolins
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