Moderate drinkers have a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and the disease progresses slower, according to a new study.
Swiss researchers followed 2,900 adults with rheumatoid arthritis and found that light to moderate drinkers showed slower progression in their joint damage compared with non-drinkers. But heavy drinkers showed a greater progression of the disease.
The findings, reported in the Arthritis and Rheumatism journal, are based on x-ray evidence of patients' joint damage and its progression over an average of four years. Although the difference would not be apparent in day to day life, researcher Dr Axel Finckh said if the slower progression was maintained over decades it could make a significant improvement to people's health.
The study, carried out at the University Hospital of Geneva, ties in with previous animal research which suggests that alcohol may inhibit arthritis by reducing inflammation.