Moderate alcohol consumption may decrease risk of RA

March 4, 2011

Alcohol consumption is associated with markers of inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) before symptoms occur. This association suggests that the anti-inflammatory effect of alcohol might be the link between moderate alcohol consumption and a possible decreased risk of RA.

Alcohol consumption is associated with markers of inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) before symptoms occur. This association suggests that the anti-inflammatory effect of alcohol might be the link between moderate alcohol consumption and a possible decreased risk of RA.

Lu and associates studied 174 participants in the Nurse's Health Study I and II who had blood collected at least 3 months before the onset of RA symptoms. The patients' alcohol consumption was assessed via questionnaire every 4 years. The investigators also gathered information about body mass, cigarette smoking, oral contraceptive use, parity, breast-feeding, age, and menopausal status. Plasma was tested for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), anti–cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibody, interleukin (IL)-6, and soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor II (sTNFRII) levels.

There was a U-shaped association between light to moderate alcohol intake and IL-6 levels. Increased daily alcohol consumption reduced the levels of sTNFRII, but alcohol consumption had a questionable effect on hsCRP and anti-CCP levels.

The authors noted that alcohol intake alone may not be powerful enough to influence the risk of RA and that although alcohol consumed in moderation may be protective against inflammatory diseases, alcohol abuse remains a major public health problem.