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Healing Choices for RA, Issue #019 --Why more females? Two tips for siblings
November 30, 2016

Ever wonder why more females get rheumatoid arthritis?

Several readers have asked, “why do more females get RA? Most patients with rheumatoid arthritis are female, who outnumber males two to one.[1] But why? First, no one knows for sure.

One possible explanation is that women appear to mount stronger immune responses. [2]

Women have a stronger immune response than men to most vaccines, including the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine; yellow fever 17D; trivalent influenza vaccine; H1N1 “swine flu” vaccine. [2] For example, women usually make more antibodies to the vaccine. 2 Antibodies are made by B cells. An example of an antibody is Rheumatoid Factor.

Vaccines induce the person to make antibodies to the microbe’s outer surface of the vaccine. These antibodies bind to the disease-causing microbe, and often block the virus’ entry into cells. Antibodies bound to the bad microbes can excite macrophages, which are the garbage-collectors of the immune system. Excited (activated) macrophages surround the antibody-bound microbes, ingest them and destroy them.

Women also generate more cytotoxic T cells—the bouncers of the immune system. They kill cells already infected with virus…or cancer cells.

Secondly, more women may be deficient in protective nutrients than men. For example, more women have low vitamin D levels than men. [3,4]

How can this info help your family?

First, Svendsen and colleagues showed in a large twin study that only 12% of the risk for getting RA was actually in the genes.[5]

Secondly, Svensen et al found that 50% of the risk of getting RA belongs to shared habits and environments with family members.[5]

The other 38% of the risk for getting RA comprise distinct habits and environmental exposures that are not shared with family.[5]

Humble advice for my own healthy daughter: Two tips

1. Since adequate vitamin D levels help maintain a well-balanced immune response, provide food and activities that maintain normal vitamin D levels in yourself, siblings and children. Yes, that includes sun- exposure of at least 20 min a day in the summer. If you live north of Charleston, South Carolina, then consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement from mid-fall through mid-spring.

2. Since women have stronger immune response, make sure to eat foods that help the body to ramp down the immune response when not needed. For example, encourage the consumption of walnuts, chia seeds, ground flax seed, and fatty fish, which provide omega 3 fatty acids. They are the precursors to molecules that switch off the inflammatory response.

Wishing you and your family a rapid healing journey,


Kathy Molnar-Kimber, Ph.D.

Private consultations are available.

Please note: the information on this website is a sharing of information and knowledge from the research and experience of Dr. Molnar-Kimber and her community. It is not intended to replace your one on one relationship with a qualified health care professional. It also is not intended to be medical advice. However, it is often observed that patients who take a major interest in their disease and learn as much as they can about their disease and potential treatments often improve faster than those who don’t. Dr. Molnar-Kimber encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your own research and discussions with your qualified health care professional.

Selected References

1. Myasoedova E, Crowson CS, Kremers HM, Therneau TM, Gabriel SE. Is the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis rising?: results from Olmsted County, Minnesota, 1955-2007. Arthritis Rheum. 2010;62(6):1576-1582.

2. Klein SL, Marriott I, Fish EN. Sex-based differences in immune function and responses to vaccination. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2015;109(1):9-15.

3. Zadshir A, Tareen N, Pan D, Norris K, Martins D. The prevalence of hypovitaminosis D among US adults: data from the NHANES III. Ethn Dis. 2005;15(4 Suppl 5):S5-97-101.

4. Hypponen E, Power C. Hypovitaminosis D in British adults at age 45 y: nationwide cohort study of dietary and lifestyle predictors. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(3):860-868.

5. Svendsen AJ, Kyvik KO, Houen G, et al. On the origin of rheumatoid arthritis: the impact of environment and genes--a population based twin study. PloS one. 2013;8(2):e57304.

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