Wine and Arthritis

Wine and Arthritis

According to Wine Spectator, a team of researchers at Goteborg University in Sweden found that low and steady doses of alcohol slowed the onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in laboratory mice. The discovery could prove to be useful in preventing the painful and destructive autoimmune disease in humans. 

The cause of arthritis is unknown, though theories abound, from family history to long-term knuckle cracking. With RA, the body's immune system turns on itself, confuses healthy tissue with foreign invaders and then attacks and inflames parts of the body. The destruction of joints may begin as soon as one year after onset. 

The authors explained that since other studies have found a link between moderate drinking and lower rates of heart disease and stroke, they decided to test if alcohol may protect the health of joints and surrounding tissue by suppressing the RA's autoimmune response. 

The researchers used two groups of mice. The first group was given just water, while the other group was given a solution of 90% water and 10% ethanol, an amount similar to light to moderate consumption levels in humans. The mice were then given a collagen-type injection to induce arthritic symptoms. 

After 9 days, 85% of the control group showed arthritic symptoms, but only 20 % of the mice that drank ethanol suffered the same problems. 

Ethanol also appeared to reduce the severity of inflammation. By day 25, the arthritic mice in the ethanol group suffered flare-up symptoms only 5% of the time. By day 35, those in the water-only group with arthritis were crippled, exhibiting symptoms 100% of the time. The ethanol group flared up only 40% of the time. 

More research is needed to better understand how moderate drinking helps prevent arthritis, the researchers noted. But they were impressed with how ethanol-consuming mice were better-equipped to deal with inflammation. "Even more importantly," they wrote, "the arthritis remained nondestructive even at late stages of the disease." 

The researchers are confident that the benefits would be similar in humans, according to coauthor Andrej Tarkowski, even though some questions have yet to be answered. "It is presently unclear what does would be the appropriate one, "he said. "Maybe, speculatively, 1 to 2 glasses of wine per day, as in the case of cardiovascular diseases."