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Alcohol May Lower the Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis by 48 Percent

Update Date: Apr 30, 2013 02:36 PM EDT

Pouring a glass of wine after the end of a long, hard day may just seem like a way to relax. However, a recent study finds that alcohol may hold some unlikely health benefits as well. The study, conducted by researchers at Kings College London in the United Kingdom, found that alcohol may hold a protective benefit against rheumatoid arthritis as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an estimated 50 million people have consulted with their doctors about arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis is the common types. The condition occurs when the immune system overreacts and attacks the joints and other parts of the body unnecessarily. The condition can cause symptoms, like inflamed joints, pain and flu-like symptoms. In severe cases, the condition can lead to deformities.

The study came to the conclusion after a meta-analysis of nine studies and 893 articles. In all, the studies examined almost 12,000 patients. Regular drinkers were 48 percent less likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

However, the link only held true for patients with anti-citrullinated protein antibodies, which are often released into the bloodstream before symptoms appear. Their presence, which appears in about 67 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, indicates a more severe form of the illness. People who have rheumatoid arthritis but who do not have the antibodies see no change in their condition from drinking alcohol.

Indeed, some studies have found that mice, for example, are significantly less likely to suffer from arthritis if they drink alcohol that has been added to their drinking water, the Daily Mail reports.

Researchers do not know why this link between alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis exists. However, researchers suggest that alcohol may contain a protective effect because it clamps down on inflammation and is able to mildly reduce pain.

The research is published in the journal Rheumatology.

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