Published on June 20, 2010 at 10:39 PM
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) a severely debilitating inflammatory disease of the joints is on the rise worldwide. It leads to severe pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of movement of joints like knees, wrist and even fingers. RA affects women more than men. RA occurs in people who develop a rogue immune system that attacks the tissue that lines the joint cavities called the synovium leading to degeneration of the joints and the symptoms of the disease. In 1995 36.4 per 100,000 women were diagnosed with RA whereas in 2005 the number rose to 54 per 100,000 women.
At present pain relievers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and some advanced drugs called DMARDs (Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatoid arthritis Drugs) are being used for treatment with the disease remaining incurable. Emphasis on diet, nutritional supplements and exercise has been put for a long time in RA therapy for prevention and mitigation.
Now a new study from Georgetown University has shown that drinking tea raised the risk of RA in post-menopausal women. The study involved more than 76,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 in the US and found significant association between tea consumption in any amount and a 40 percent rise in the risk of getting RA. Women who took more than 4 cups of tea per day upped the risk by as much as 78 percent. Effects of black tea were assessed in this study and green and herbal teas were excluded. Coffee, filtered and otherwise and caffeinated and decaffeinated has no similar effect. The study was presented at the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) 2010 in Rome.
Professor Christopher Collins, from Georgetown University Medical Centre in the US, said, “We set out to determine whether tea or coffee consumption, or the method of preparation of the drinks was associated with an increased risk of (rheumatoid arthritis)…It is surprising that we saw such differences in results between tea and coffee drinkers. This does make us wonder what it is in tea, or in the method of preparation of tea that causes the significant increase in risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.”