Sugary Sodas May Raise Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Arthritis Today—October 15, 2014

Women who drink one or more sugar-sweetened sodas a day are significantly more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than those who drink less than one soda month or none, according to a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The risk appears to be even higher for older women.

Because many studies have shown that sugar-sweetened soda is linked to obesity as well as type 2 diabetes and heart disease – all of which are more common in people with RA – the researchers wondered whether sugary beverages might play a role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis, too.

Noting that the increased risk was seen only in women with seropositive RA, Susan Goodman, MD, a rheumatologist 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."

Bad Soda

The researchers also wanted to know whether other beverages, such as diet soda and fruit juice, might be associated with an increased RA risk. They weren't. Even fruit punch, which, like sweetened soda, is sweetened primarily with high-fructose corn syrup, didn't raise the risk of RA, though why this is so isn't clear. In addition, substituting skim milk for soda seemed to decrease the risk, possibly due to the beneficial effects of vitamin D.

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