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Alcohol reduces rheumatoid arthritis risk

Drinking three units of alcohol a week could protect against rheumatoid arthritis, research suggests.

Scientists say their findings explain how a person's lifestyle affects their risk of developing the disease and may pave the way for potential new treatments.

Henrik Kallberg, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, 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 rheumatoid arthritis were scarce and inconsistent."

Kalberg and fellow scientists asked 1,204 people with rheumatoid arthritis and 871 without the disease to complete a lifestyle questionnaire.

They found that alcohol also reduces the risk of arthritis conferred by smoking or susceptible genes.

Tore Kvien  President of the European League Against Rheumatism, 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."

European League Against Rheumatism