B. Walitt 1M. Pettinger 2C. Parks 3J. Hunt 2B. Howard 4C. Collins 1,*

1Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC, 2Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, 3National Institute of Environmental Health Science, Research Triangle Park, NC, 4Medstar Research Institute, Washington, DC, United States


Background: There are conflicting reports on the possible association between coffee and tea consumption and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some the studies have postulated that the associations between coffee consumption and RA are related to the method of preparation and/or processing; however no study to date has examined this variable. Surprisingly there are no studies which have addressed the risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and consumption of coffee or tea.

Objectives: To evaluate whether coffee or tea consumption, or the method of coffee preparation, is associated with an increased risk of older-onset RA or SLE using the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS), a longitudinal cohort study of 96,676 women aged 50-79 years.

Methods: 76,643 women completed a self-administered questionnaire at baseline providing information on daily consumption of coffee and tea. Consumption was stratified by number of cups per day and also by method of preparation (filtered versus unfiltered and caffeinated versus decaffeinated). The diagnosis of incident RA or SLE at year 3 of follow-up was determined using a validated method of self-report and use of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (n=210; 185 RA, 33 SLE, 8 both RA and SLE). Relationships among intake of various beverages and the risk of RA or SLE were assessed in age-adjusted models and in multivariate Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for race, education, history of smoking, alcohol use, body-mass index, and hormone use. Trend tests were calculated using categorical variables modeled as a continuous variable without collapsing.

Results: In multivariate analyses there was no increase in the hazard ratio (HR) for either incident RA or SLE in those participants who drank coffee compared to those who did not (RA: HR 1.09, 95% CI 0.77–1.54, p = 0.63, and SLE: HR 0.81, 95% CI 0.37-1.75, p = 0.59). There were also no significant trends for the amount of coffee consumed and the risk of either incident RA or SLE (RA: p = 0.16, and SLE: p = 0.82). This was true regardless of whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated. Furthermore, the method of coffee preparation (filtered versus unfiltered) did not show any significant associations (RA: filtered p = 0.08, unfiltered p = 0.38, and SLE: filtered p = 0.74, unfiltered p = 0.97 for trends test). There was a positive association of incident RA and tea consumption in the trends test (p = 0.03) and those women drinking the most tea (≥4 cups/day) had a HR of 1.78 (CI 0.83-3.82) compared to those drinking none. When assessing any tea consumption versus none, the HR for incident RA was 1.40 (CI 1.01-1.93), p = 0.04. No associations were seen with incident SLE and tea consumption.

Conclusion: In this large prospective cohort of women, there were no associations between coffee consumption and the risk of either incident RA or SLE, even in analysis stratified by caffeination or method of preparation. However, there was a significant independent positive association between daily tea consumption and incident RA.


Disclosure of Interest: None declared