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Approved Research

Role of alcohol drinking and dietary patterns in the development of rheumatoid arthritis

Principal Investigator: Professor Francesco Barone-Adesi
Approved Research ID: 57746
Approval date: August 5th 2020

Lay summary

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease in which a person's immune system attacks its own body, particularly bones and cartilage. This disease leads to pain in the joint and severe disability. While treatments to manage symptoms are available, there is no cure yet. Around 400,000 adults have RA in the United Kingdom and this number is growing.

The causes of RA are unclear. In addition to several other causes (genetics, smoking, excessive weight), some studies suggest a possible role of alcohol drinking and specific dietary patterns (such as consumption of red meat and olive oil). However, there is still uncertainty because most previous studies were small and inconclusive.

We propose to use the data already collected in UK Biobank to investigate the possible link of alcohol drinking and diet with onset of RA. We plan to focus only on new events of RA diagnosed by hospital doctors or general practitioners. We will use information on diet from touchscreen questionnaires collected at baseline and re-evaluated after 4 years. We will also conduct analyses to assess whether life-long genetic propensity to drink alcohol or follow particular dietary patterns affects life-long risk of RA onset.

This will be the largest investigation into the relationship between alcohol, diet and RA. Because of its size and the range of methods utilised, this study has the potential to reliably clarify if alcohol drinking and diet are associated with RA. Ultimately, this investigation can result in improved preventative tools for individuals that are at high risk for RA, such as relatives of RA patients.