According to a study recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) if they 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 leads to inflammation and subsequent joint pain and damage, fatigue and other consequences. It is a systemic, autoimmune disease believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Researchers studied the link between sugary beverages and RA because previous research suggests that sugar-sweetened soda is associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease; these conditions tend to occur more frequently in RA patients. The study was led by Yang Hu and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. The prospective cohort included 190,000 women from two large studies of nurses. The researchers analyzed data about the women’s diet and health between 1980 and 2008, Arthritis Today reports.
The women in the study answered questionnaires about their physical activity, weight and medical history at the start of the study and roughly every two years afterwards. A total of 857 women developed RA over the course of the study. After accounting for other factors, the study showed that drinking more than one sugar-sweetened soda per day was associated with a 63 percent increased risk of RA compared to those who drank less than one per month.
Only women with the more-severe “seropositive” RA were shown to be at increased risk. 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).”
In referring to the heightened risk of women with seropositive RA, rheumatologist Susan Goodman, MD, at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York says, “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.”