A study conducted at Washington State University has identified a potential new approach to reducing pain, inflammation and tissue damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects 400,000 people in the UK. It’s the second most common form of arthritis in UK and affects three times as many women as men. It causes stiffness, fatigue, pain, swelling, anaemia and can even cause flu-like symptoms, although these do vary from one person to the next. Although there is no determined sole cause for rheumatoid arthritis, there is some evidence to suggest that genetic factors can contribute, as can lifestyle – some research has suggested that smoking, drinking a lot of coffee and eating a lot of red meat can be a factor.

The research team consisting of Anil K. Singh, Sadiq Umar, Sharayah Riegsecker, Mukesh Chourasia and Salahuddin Ahmed looked at a phytochemical called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This is a molecule with anti-inflammatory properties found in green tea. A pre-clinical animal model of human rheumatoid arthritis showed significant improvement in inflammation after a 10 day treatment. The results show promising potential for EGCG to be used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis without blocking other cellular functions. Further research needs to be carried out but this is a promising step.

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