Rome, Italy, Wednesday 16 June 2010: Alcohol consumption is associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing several arthritic conditions including Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Osteoarthritis (OA), reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and spondylarthropathy, according to results of a new study presented today at EULAR 2010, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Rome, Italy. Regardless of the type of arthritis, all patients reported drinking less alcohol than controls, leading to questions around the inflammatory pathways behind the effects seen.
In this Dutch study, alcohol consumption was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing RA (Odds Ratio (OR) 0.27 (0.22-0.34), Osteoarthritis (OR 0.31, (0.16-0.62), spondylarthropathy (OR 0.34, 0.17-0.67), psoriatic arthritis (OR 0.38, 0.23-0.62), and reactive arthritis (OR 0.27, 0.14-0.52). A particularly protective effect was shown in the RA population with the presence of Anti-Citrullinated Protein Antibodies (ACPA, potentially important surrogate markers for diagnosis and prognosis in RA), (OR 0.59, 0.30-0.99).
Alcohol strikes me as a great example of how choosing an ideal diet will some day depend on genetic profiling of relative health risks. Some people are genetically at greater risk of alcoholism. So they probably ought to avoid drinking much alcohol. At the same time, alcohol appears to boost cancer risk (possibly by stimulating blood vessel growth that enables cancer growth). So if one's genetic profile might indicate one's level of cancer risk one could know whether regular alcohol consumption was worth the risk. On the other side of the risk equation, alcohol probably cuts heart disease risk (and possibly via the same mechanism by which it boosts cancer risk. Plus, it cuts arthritis risk of the report above is correct. So you need to know your genetic risk of arthritis too.
Genes won't be the only source of information in forming detailed health risk profiles 5 or 10 years hence. Other biological tests already provide indications of risk for heart disease, stroke, and other diseases. The number of such tests and their power will steadily increase in coming years. We will therefore be able to buy services to create very detailed individual assessments of many of our disease risks.
To make a wise decision about alcohol you end up needing a detailed view into the extent that your potential risks will change from drinking alcohol. There's no one correct answer that applies to everyone.
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