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Study Links Sugary Sodas to Increased Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Oct 16, 2014

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that sugary sodas increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women who drink one or more sugar-sweetened sodas a day compared those who drink less than one soda per month or less. According to the Arthritis Today, RA is a systemic, autoimmune disease believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Symptoms include inflammation and subsequent joint pain and damage and fatigue .

Previous studies show that consuming sugar-sweetened soda increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are both more common among RA patients. Lead author Yang Hu and colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston analyzed a prospective cohort including 190,000 women from two large studies of nurses to study whether sweetened beverages were correlated with RA. The researchers looked at data about the women's diet and health between 1980 and 2008, Arthritis Today reports.

Study participants reported on their physical activity, weight and medical history at the start of the study and roughly every two years afterwards. During the study, a total of 857 women developed RA; after accounting for other factors, this suggests that drinking more than one sugar-sweetened soda per day is linked to a 63 percent increased risk of RA compared to those who drank less than one per month.

The risk was only apparent in women with the more-severe “seropositive” RA.. According to Arthritis Today, “Seropositive RA means that the patient’s blood tests positive for at least one of two autoantibodies linked to RA – rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (also called anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides).”

Rheumatologist Susan Goodman, MD, at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York said in reference to women with seropositive RA, “This is a group who are also more susceptible to the effects of smoking, suggesting that sugar may be an environmental stimulus similar to smoking in susceptible people."

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