Beer Can Help RA Prevention but How Much Is Too Much?


Beer Can Help RA Prevention but How Much Is Too Much?

Alcohol and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Good news for those affected by rheumatoid arthritis who enjoy drinking in moderation: a drink or two can help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, especially in women, according to a 2014 study featured in “Arthritis and Rheumatism.”

More about This Study

Drinking in moderation on a regular basis can prevent the development of rheumatoid arthritis significantly. Any form of alcohol consumption decreases the risk of RA by 21%, and beer even more: by almost one third (when the subjects had two to four beers a week). This review study is based on two large clinical trials involving over 200,000 women. The diet, other lifestyle choices and alcohol consumption were evaluated every four years. The scientists can’t explain how alcohol influences the development of RA, but suggested it may play a role in modulating the immune system response.

Previous Research

The Mediterranean diet was found to be beneficial for many conditions from heart disease to digestive problems, cancer, weight management and rheumatoid arthritis as well. For example, a 2003 study found that adopting this diet leads to symptom improvement (noted after 6 weeks or more). The authors believed that vitamin E and essential fatty acids were primarily responsible for the improvement.  Another study showed improvement in physical function, increased mobility and energy levels in RA patients after the participants of the study followed this diet for three months.

However, the resveratrol from red wine may also help as well. The Mediterranean diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, as well as one (for women) or two(for men) glasses of red wine most of the days.

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Alcohol and Rheumatoid Arthritis Considerations

If you don’t drink, don’t start now for the purpose of preventing and managing rheumatoid arthritis. You can adopt the Mediterranean diet and choose to drink grape juice instead of wine, because it is rich in resveratrol, too. You can also take it in the supplemental form.

Drinking in moderation is important; the benefits of alcohol are clearly dose-dependent. Based on studies, two to four beers a week or a glass of red wine most days are beneficial for prevention and management of rheumatoid arthritis.

The standard definition of “moderate drinking” is the following: no more than 9 drinks per week for women and 12-14 for men. You also have to pay attention to how fast you drink to keep the blood alcohol concentration below 0.55. One standard drink is the equivalent of 12 oz. of beer (5% alcohol), 5 oz. of wine (12.5% alcohol) or 1.5 oz. of 40% alcohol.

If you can’t drink in moderation, don’t drink at all. Heavy drinking will typically cause the exact opposite effect: it will worsen the symptoms and increase the chances to get other medical problems as well.

Talk to our doctor about drinking alcohol, as it may interfere with some drugs used for treating rheumatoid arthritis. From over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, to diseases modifying anti rheumatic drugs, biologic agents and corticosteroids, the effects of these drugs can be altered by alcohol.

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