But smoking reduces alcohol's benefits
Alcohol may protect against rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with three units a week exhibiting protective effects and ten units a week being more protective still. An alcohol consumption of three units per week or more also reduced the risk by smoking or by a genetic predisposition to RA.
An increased alcohol (ethanol) consumption of three or more units per week was associated with a decreased risk of developing RA. The findings could improve understanding of the effects of lifestyle on the risk of developing RA and pave the way for new potential treatment approaches based on the apparently beneficial effects of alcohol.
Henrik Källberg at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, who is a PhD student said, “Several previous studies have indicated a suppression of the immune system by alcohol and a recent study showed that it prevented development of destructive arthritis. However, until now, epidemiological investigations on the effects of alcohol on RA were scarce and inconsistent. These data now show not only that alcohol can protect against RA and reduce the risk conferred by smoking or susceptible genes, but also gives an idea of the relevant alcohol doses necessary.”
Professor Tore Kvien said, “These are very interesting findings and are the first observation, from epidemiological data, which now should be confirmed by further clinical studies before a firm conclusion can be achieved. Furthermore, we assert the need for caution in the interpretation of these data. The misuse of alcohol is associated with a number of social and medical problems and any positive implications of alcohol must be coupled with the importance of moderation in alcohol consumption in accordance with standard national guidelines.”