Study: Beer Stops Arthritis

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Having a beer a few times a week might help women avoid painful
rheumatoid  
arthritis, a new study suggests.
The disease, which affects women more than men, is a form of arthritis
linked to immune system dysfunction. According to the Arthritis  
Foundation, over 1.5 million Americans suffer from the disease, which  
typically begins in the 20s or 30s.
However, "long-term, moderate alcohol drinking may reduce future  
rheumatoid arthritis development" in women, said lead researcher Dr.
Bing  
Lu, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital
and  
Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

Overall, moderate use of any form of alcohol reduced the risk by about
21  
percent, but moderate beer drinking -- two to four beers per week --
cut  
women's odds for the disease by nearly a third, the study found.
The findings are published in the spring 2014 issue of Arthritis &  
Rheumatism.
In their research, Lu's group tracked the drinking habits of women in
two  
large studies, the Nurses' Health Study and the Nurses' Health Study
II.  
The first study began in 1976, and includes more than 121,000
registered  
nurses. The second includes more than 116,00 nurses, and started in
1989.  
Women answered questions about their health and lifestyle every two
years  
and about diet, including alcohol consumption, every four years.
Editor’s Note: These 6 Things Make Your Arthritis and Joint Pain Worse

Long-term moderate alcohol drinking appeared to reduce the risk of
getting  
rheumatoid arthritis, Lu said. But drinking a few beers per week
seemed to  
have the best effect, providing a 31 percent reduction in risk.
Lu said his team can't yet explain how beer and other alcohol might
reduce  
a woman's risk for rheumatoid arthritis. He also doesn't know if the  
findings would apply to men. "We don't know for men," Lu said, "but  
rheumatoid arthritis is primarily a woman's disease."
The new study does echo some previous research, noted one expert, Dr.
Len  
Horovitz, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"There is a correlation between alcohol and a reduced risk of
rheumatoid  
arthritis over time," he said, citing other studies. However, that
doesn't  
mean that one necessarily leads to the other -- "there is a
correlation  
[shown here], not cause and effect," Horovitz said.
Exactly how a little alcohol may reduce a woman's odds for the joint  
malady is complicated, he said. "The mechanism of action is very
complex,"  
Horovitz said, involving immune system activity and other factors.
Dr. Daniel Arkfeld, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the
Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los
Angeles,  
called the findings "astonishing."
He also pointed to prior studies that have linked moderate alcohol
intake  
with lower rheumatoid arthritis risk, but added that none had focused
on  
beer specifically.
It's possible that alcohol may work to boost levels of estrogen, which
is  
protective against rheumatoid arthritis, Arkfeld said.
The new findings might be especially relevant for someone with a
family  
history of the disease, added Dr. Scott Zashin, a rheumatologist in
Dallas  
and a member of the media committee for the American College of  
Rheumatology.
"The likelihood of someone developing rheumatoid arthritis is not
common,"  
Zashin said. "But if you have a family history, your risk increases."
He said that "patients with a family history might enjoy a beer a few  
times a week if there is no other reason not to drink."
But while imbibing the occasional drink may be good for your health,  
Horovitz stressed that excessive drinking is never a good idea. Nor is
the  
new finding a reason for people who don't drink beer to start doing
so, he  
said.
Arkfeld offered one more caveat, noting that alcohol does not mix well
with certain rheumatoid arthritis drugs due to the risk of liver
effects.  
So in those who already have rheumatoid arthritis, checking with your  
doctor before upping your alcohol intake is advised, he said.


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