SHEFFIELD, England, July 31 (UPI) -- Alcohol consumption reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, as well as its severity, researchers in Britain say.
First author Dr. James Maxwell, a rheumatologist at the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust and honorary senior clinical lecturer at the University of Sheffield, looked at 873 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and compared them with a control group of 1,004 people who did not have rheumatoid arthritis.
Study leader Gerry Wilson of the University of Sheffield asked both groups how frequently they had drunk alcohol in the month preceding the study. The study participants also completed a questionnaire, had X-rays and blood tests and an experienced research nurse examined their joints.
The study, published online in the journal Rheumatology, finds patients who had drunk alcohol most frequently had symptoms that were less severe than those who had never, or infrequently, consumed alcohol.
The X-rays showed less joint damage, the blood tests showed lower levels of inflammation and there was less joint pain, swelling and disability, the study says.
Non-drinkers were four times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than people who drank alcohol more than 10 days a month, Maxwell says.