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Posted: February 01, 2018

These two common foods may trigger rheumatoid arthritis, study says

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

By Najja Parker, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If you keep your refrigerator stocked with milk and beef, beware. These common food items may trigger rheumatoid arthritis for those genetically at risk, according to a new report.

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Researchers from the University of Central Florida recently conducted an experiment, published in the Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, to determine the link between arthritis and a bacteria called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), which is commonly found in milk and beef.

In previous studies, scientists discovered a link between MAP and Crohn’s disease and learned that Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis share the same genetic makeup. 

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“Here you have two inflammatory diseases, one affects the intestine and the other affects the joints, and both share the same genetic defect and treated with the same drugs. Do they have a common trigger? That was the question we raised and set out to investigate,” Saleh Naser, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

To explore their hypothesis, researchers examined 100 volunteers with rheumatoid arthritis. About 78 percent of them had the same genetic mutation found in Crohn’s patients, and 40 percent of those cases were positive for MAP.

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“We believe that individuals born with this genetic mutation and who are later exposed to MAP through consuming contaminated milk or meat from infected cattle are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis,” Naser said.

The researchers revealed that people with rheumatoid arthritis also suffer from Crohn’s, and they want to investigate “the incidence of the two diseases in the same patients” next.

Their latest findings are promising, but the scientists say “there is still a long way to go.”

“We need to find out why MAP is more predominant in these patients – whether it’s present because they have RA, or whether it caused RA in these patients,” said Shazia Beg, a co-author of the study. “If we find that out, then we can target treatment toward the MAP bacteria.”

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