Image by Yana Iskayeva

Eating pizza most certainly carries psychological benefits as a comfort food, but a new study out of Italy suggests that it might help with rheumatoid arthritis, too.

Published in the journal Nutrients, the study — conducted by researchers from several Italian cities as well as Providence, Rhode Island, which purports to have the largest per capita Italian diasporic community in the US — appears to be the first of its kind, as researchers looked at whether pizza could have beneficial effects for folks with rheumatoid arthritis, which causes uncomfortable or painful swelling in the joints.

While pizza is considered a junk food in the US, the way they do it in Italy — with fresh mozzarella, basil, cherry tomatoes, and more healthy ingredients — does indeed make these delicious pies more nutritious than the average greasy slice or frozen pie in the US.

In the study, the consortium of scientists examined data from a prior survey on the dietary habits of 365 Italians aged 18 and 65 who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Using results from the survey, which was conducted between 2018 and 2019, the scientists found that those who ate half a pizza at least once per week experienced a reduction in their arthritis symptoms compared to those who only ate pizza twice a month or less. Interestingly, those with more severe rheumatoid arthritis seemed to fare better when eating more pizza, too.

"These beneficial effects were likely driven by mozzarella cheese and, to a lesser extent, by olive oil," the study's authors noted in its text, "even though we were unable to assess the possible contribution of tomato sauce."

While it's awesome that pizza is making its way out of the cultural borderlands of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and fare for collegiate drunkards, this study does have one glaring loophole: it doesn't take into account lactose intolerance, which likely affects as many Italians as it does Americans, and which may be associated with the kind of inflammation dairy causes in some folks with rheumatoid arthritis.

Like with pizza itself, context is probably everything. It feels safe to say that eating a fresh Neopolitan-style pizza is going to be better for you than, say, a cheap slice purchased on the street or at a fast food counter.

More on pizza: Robot Pizza Startup Shuts Down After Cheese Kept Sliding Off

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