A recent survey has concluded that drinking alcohol can not only ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it appears to reduce disease severity too.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield asked two groups of patients with and without the disease to provide details of their drinking habits.
They found that patients who had drunk alcohol most frequently experienced less joint pain and swelling.
Experts say this should not be taken as a green light for drinking more.
In the study, 873 patients with rheumatoid arthritis were compared to 1,004 people who did not have it.
Both groups were asked how often they had drunk alcohol in the month running up to the start of the study.
â€œIt is possible that the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of alcohol may play a role in reducing the severity of symptoms,â€ said Dr James Maxwell, a consultant rheumatologist.
Patients completed a detailed questionnaire, had X-rays and blood tests, and a nurse examined their joints.
Dr Maxwell further explained: “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 drank it infrequently.”
X-rays showed there was less damage to their joints, blood tests showed lower levels of inflammation, and there was less joint pain, swelling and disability in those patients, the researchers found.
They say they do not yet understand why drinking alcohol should reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, and people’s susceptibility to developing it.
Dr Maxwell said: “There is some evidence to show that alcohol suppresses the activity of the immune system, and that this may influence the pathways by which RA develops.
A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK, which co-funded the research, said: “We would not want people with RA to take this research to mean that they should go out and start drinking alcohol frequently and in large amounts as this could be detrimental to their health.”