Joints deteriorate more slowly among heavy smokers with rheumatoid arthritis compared to nonsmokers or light smokers, leading researchers to suggest that nicotine may help slow the progression of the disease.
Reuters reported July 31 that researcher Axel Finckh of the University Hospital of Geneva said that the study results may reflect “the anti-inflammatory properties of nicotine.” Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes progressive destruction of the joints.
The researchers compared x-rays and self-reports of disability from more than 2,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Of the study group — all in their 50s — 1,459 were nonsmokers, 489 were moderate smokers, and 55 were heavy smokers. The three-year study found that while nonsmokers and moderate smokers have similar rates of joint degradation, damage appeared to progress more slowly among the heavy smokers.
The study was reported in the August 2007 issue of the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.