The disease is a form of arthritis linked to immune system dysfunction. According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 1.5 million Americans suffer from the disease, which typically begins in the 20s or 30s.
However, "long-term, moderate alcohol drinking may reduce future rheumatoid arthritis development" in women, said lead researcher Dr. Bing Lu, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Boston.
Overall, moderate use of any form of alcohol reduced the risk by about 21 percent, but moderate beer drinking — two to four beers per week — cut women's odds for the disease by nearly a third, the study found.
In their research, Lu's group tracked the drinking habits of women in two large studies, the Nurses' Health Study and the Nurses' Health Study II. The first study began in 1976, and includes more than 121,000 registered nurses. The second includes more than 116,00 nurses, and started in 1989. Women answered questions about their health and lifestyle every two years , including alcohol consumption, every four years.
Long-term moderate alcohol drinking appeared to reduce the risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis, Lu said. But drinking a few beers per week seemed to have the best effect, providing a 31 percent reduction in risk.
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