Alcohol Use and Knee Osteoarthritis

Alcohol Use and Knee Osteoarthritis 645d537658c84.png

Alcohol Use and Knee Osteoarthritis

When consumed in moderation, a glass of wine with a nice meal or an ice-cold margarita on the beach can be an enjoyable treat. However, when consumed too often, or in excess, alcoholic beverages can have serious effects on your brain, your overall health, and…your knees.

Yes. You read that right. Too much alcohol can adversely impact your knees, especially in those of us already diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis.

The problem with alcohol is that it can trigger an inflammatory response in the body which can aggravate joint pain caused by osteoarthritis. Too much alcohol can also adversely affect immune function, which can inhibit the joints from healing.

In 2019 a study at the University of California took a deeper look at the link between alcohol consumption and knee osteoarthritis. The researchers measured the effect that a 12-month period of alcohol consumption had on the knees of 2,061 participants.

Using MRI imaging, and T2 mapping- which provides more sensitive information on the cartilage including its collagen fiber orientation, the scientists were able to determine that there is indeed a connection between alcohol consumption and knee issues.

In fact, they found that those participants that consumed 1-7 drinks per week, on average, had worse cartilage biochemical composition. And, in addition to that, they found that alcohol use was also negatively associated with cartilage and meniscus joint morphology.

Though this and other studies back the claim that alcohol use has a negative effect on knee health, the predominant information available to us seems to say the opposite. Even the American Heart Association has stated that “drinking alcohol in moderation is associated with a reduced rate of heart disease-related mortality in some patients”. This claim has led many people with various ailments including osteoarthritis, to think that drinking alcohol will actually help them. Especially drinking red wine.

We’ve all heard the many health benefits of antioxidant, reservatol, and flavonoid-rich red wine. We’ve heard that it’s “heart healthy” and can reduce inflammation, lower bad cholesterol, and even help reduce the risk of certain cancers. However, the reality is, for many of us, the risks associated with consuming alcohol, even red wine, may outweigh the benefits.

Some of the most common adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption include, but are not limited to:

Accidents, violence, and suicide
Certain types of cancer
Heart failure
High blood pressure
Liver and pancreas diseases
Weight gain and obesity

Alcohol can also interact with many medications that are used to treat and reduce knee osteoarthritis pain. These interactions can not only inhibit the efficacy of the medicine but can also cause serious, even life-threatening health complications as well.

The Bottom Line: Though consuming alcohol, particularly red wine in limited amounts may have its health benefits, it is not a recommended part of any treatment plan for knee osteoarthritis or any medical condition for that matter.

Consuming even a moderate amount of alcohol can have an inflammatory effect that can aggravate degenerative joint pain and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Alcohol can also inhibit healing in the body, and, in particular, the knees.

Therefore, if you do choose to drink alcohol it should be done so as a very small and occasional part of a healthy diet, and a healthy lifestyle.

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