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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 00:59 GMT 01:59 UK
Coffee linked to arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects one per cent of the population
Drinking coffee may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to doctors.

Research carried out in Finland suggests the number of cups of coffee drunk daily is linked to increased risk of developing the condition.

Doctors at the National Institute of Public Health in Helsinki examined their theory among a cross sectional survey of almost 7,000 people.

One in 100 affected

They found the number of cups of coffee consumed on a daily basis was strongly associated with rheumatoid factor.

Rheumatoid factor can contribute to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, which affects approximately one per cent of the population.

It can lead to permanent disability, and can even, in extreme cases, affect the major organs, causing life-threatening damage.

The research team also monitored a group of almost 19,000 over a 15 year period, none of whom had any evidence of arthritis when first tested.

They found people who drank four or more cups of coffee a day were twice as likely to test positive for arthritis than those who drank less.

The results held true even after adjusting for other risk factors, such as age, gender, smoking and weight.

They also report that those who drank 11 or more cups a day were almost 15 times as likely to have rheumatoid factor as non-coffee drinkers.

To link the disease with coffee consumption is rather simplistic

Arthritis Research Campaign spokeswoman

But they are unable to identify the ingredient in coffee, and in coffee that is not filtered in particular, that may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

They called for further research to be carried out to see if their theory stands up.

Possible risk

"Coffee consumption should be considered a possible risk factor or a confounder in future reasearch intot he cause of rheumatoid arthritis," they state.

The findings are published in the latest issue of the medical journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

But a spokeswoman from the Arthritis Research Campaign said: "When you consider that rheumatoid arthritis is a complex disease with a large genetic element, and that environmental and genetic factors interact to play a part in its development, to link the disease with coffee consumption is rather simplistic."

A spokesman from the Coffee News Information Service, which represents the coffee industry, said the study had shown an association but not a cause and effect relationship.

"Most importantly when the data was collected 20 years ago, very strong boiled coffee was heavily consumed in Scandinavia, and does not represent normal UK consumption, which is primarily of the instant variety.

"Coffee drinkers should rest assured that coffee consumption in moderation is perfectly safe."

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