MedStar Researchers Evaluate Coffee and Tea Consumption in Relation to Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Recently published collaborative research evaluated whether tea or coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of incident rheumatoid arthritis using the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. The research team included members from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, National Institute of Nursing Research, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, National Institute of Environmental Health Science, MedStar Health Research Institute and Georgetown/Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences.

The Women’s Health Initiative was a long-term national health study which MedStar Health Research Institute joined as a collaborating center in 1994, under the direction of Barbara Howard, PhD. The observational study includes a cohort of 93,676 postmenopausal women, age 50 to 79, whom were enrolled from 1993 to 1998. In the study, 76,853 women completed a self-administered questionnaire at baseline providing information on their daily consumption of tea and coffee.

During analysis, the study team found that previous studies have shown an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis associated with consumption of decaffeinated coffee, but no such association with caffeinated coffee intake. Many teas such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea have been considered as antioxidants and perhaps reducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. However, several studies have suggested no relationship between tea consumption and rheumatoid arthritis. Other risk factors such as age, race/ethnicity, cigarette smoking, medical history, medication use, and other lifestyle behaviors may also be associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

There were 185 women who self-reported incident cases of rheumatoid arthritis. The results show that women with a history of nonherbal, nondecaffeinated tea consumption of any amount had an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis during the first 3 years of observation in the Women’s Health Initiative Observation Study. The study results do not show any association between coffee intake and rheumatoid arthritis but there is a minimal increased risk of incident rheumatoid arthritis with caffeinated tea consumption.

The study authors are Diman Lamichlane, MD; Christopher Collins, MD; Florina Constantinescu, MD, PhD; Brian Walitt, MD; Mary Pettinger, MS; Christine Parks, PhD, MSPH; and Barbara Howard, PhD.

Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 2019. DOI: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000000788