The question of whether knocking back a few drinks every now and then is a good thing is one that can be debated by purists, and ignored by those who just want to have a glass of wine with dinner. But recent research provides scientific evidence that having a glass or two won’t hurt you, and, in fact, could help you.
Can consuming alcoholic drinks lower your risk of rheumatoid arthritis?
According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, the answer is yes, by about 50 percent. Researchers took assessments of 34,141 Swedish women who were born between 1914 and 1948. They surveyed the participants in 1987 and again in 1997. After adjusting for variables, including age, smoking and dietary habits, the scientists found that women who reported drinking more than three glasses of alcohol per week in that 10-year span proved to be 52 percent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis compared to those who never consumed alcohol. Researchers defined one standard glass of alcohol as approximately 500 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine or 50 ml of liquor.
Researchers say their findings are probably due to alcohol’s ability to reduce the body’s immune response.
For people who have already been diagnosed with RA, taking certain medications, such as methotrexate and Arava, makes it especially important not to drink at all. Make sure you talk to your doctor about how your medications may affect your ability to drink alcohol.
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Can alcohol prevent osteoporosis too?
A similar, but much smaller study was conducted at Oregon State University examining the effects of alcohol on bones. Researchers studied 40 postmenopausal women under age 65 who said they consumed up to two drinks a day for one year prior to the study. The women were then asked to abstain from alcohol for two weeks. When the women stopped drinking, researchers found that their blood levels showed higher levels of biomarkers associated with bone turnover. Bone turnover is a normal process of bone loss and replacement; however, when more bone is lost than replaced, it leads to osteoporosis. Once the women were told to start drinking again, their bone turnover improved after only one day of moderate consumption.
The findings could be a result of alcohol’s ability to raise estrogen levels, which plays a big role in women’s health. Researchers for this study cautioned women from drinking alcohol to improve their bone health, as there are other risks with drinking alcohol, such as increasing risk of breast cancer.
What about stroke?
Alcohol may even prevent women from stroke, according to a study that came out earlier this year. The study looked at 83,578 female nurses, who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and were assessed every four years from 1980 to 2006. Researchers found that light-to-moderate drinkers had a 17 percent to 21 percent lower risk of stroke than non-drinkers. Light-to-moderate drinking was averaged at up to 15 grams of alcohol per day, which is about one drink per day. However, the risk of stroke increased for women who drank over 38 g or approximately 3 drinks per day.