Too much red meat may cause rheumatoid arthritis, say researchers

London: Eating lots of red meat increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, say researchers at Manchester University. And smoking increases the risk of chronic ageing diseases.

Epidermiologists from the university researched 25,000 people aged between 45 and 75. They compared the diets of the 88 diagnosed with rhumatoid arthritis, the condition causes membranes lining the joints to become inflamed, leading to pain and swelling, with those in a control group of 175 others. The findings are published in the Arthritis and Rheumatism journal.

They discoverd that those who ate large mounts of red meat and who smoked were more likely to have inflammatory arthritis.

Only 35 per cent of those who suffered from arthritis had never smoked, compared with 85 per cent of the control group.

The researchers concluded that the eating of red meat would likely only affect those predisposed to the condition.

‘It may be that the high collagen content of meat leads to collagen sensitisation and consequent production of anticollagen antibodies, most likely in a subgroup of susceptible individuals,’ the team said.

‘Meat consumption may be linked to either additives or even infectious agents, but again there is no evidence as to what might be important in relation to rheumatoid arthritis.’

Experts said last night that while people who eat large quantities of red meat should consider cutting down, they should not panic.

A spokesman for the Arthritis Research Campaign, which funded the study, said: ‘This provides further evidence that environmental factors can help to trigger rheumatoid arthritis.

‘In the light of this new evidence, we would suggest that, as part of a healthy lifestyle, people should cut down the amount of red meat they eat.’

But he added: ‘We wouldn’t want people to think that if they eat four burgers a week they are going to develop rheumatoid arthritis the following week, because there are other risk factors that come into play – genetic susceptibility, smoking and low intake of Vitamin C.

‘Red meat in itself is not dangerous to health, but should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced, healthy diet.’