A new study has suggested that drinking alcohol may lower the chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and reduce its severity among people who already have the condition.
According to research published in the journal Rheumatology, non-drinkers face a four-times higher risk of RA than people who consume alcohol on 10 or more days a month.
University of Sheffield experts who studied 800 RA sufferers and 1,000 healthy subjects said they also found a slower progression of the disease among regular drinkers.
Based on the number of days the participants had at least one alcoholic drink, the researchers created groups who drank no alcohol; drank on one to five days; on six to 10 days and more than 10 days.
X-rays, blood tests and medical examination of joints were carried out to determine the severity of the symptoms over the study period.
James Maxwell, a consultant rheumatologist at the Rotherham Foundation NHS Trust, said: "We found that patients who had drunk alcohol most frequently had symptoms that were less severe than those who had never drunk alcohol or only drunk it infrequently.
"X-rays showed there was less damage to joints, blood tests showed lower levels of inflammation, and there was less joint pain, swelling and disability."
"Whilst on holiday for 2 weeks going through different time zones on a cruise, I missed odd doses of my RA medications including Plaquenil and Celebrex. I was certainly drinking more than usual at lunches, dinners etc. I must say my RA symptoms were unaffected and considering the amount of walking I did during the holiday, did not get the usual swelling/stiffness of joints I get at home when, eg, gardening. Therefore, maybe alcohol does help!" - Christine Kilby
"The medication I am taking to alleviate painful and inflamed joints advises that I should not drink alcohol! I would love a tipple now and then but dare not risk it" - Alison Kelly, Cambridge
"What alcohol? Is there a difference between grapes and hops?" - Helen Batchelor