Good news on gout

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Gout is not caused by poor diet. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

DESPITE years of speculation to the contrary, scientists have now discovered gout is not caused by poor diet.

The painful and potentially debilitating condition affects around one in 40 people in the UK, causing inflammation of the joints.  It was previously thought wine, red meat and beer could be to blame for the disease but researchers have now discovered that is not the case.

A study by the University of Otago, New Zealand, found that genetics were instead to blame for how likely a person was to develop the illness.  The researchers analysed 16,760 people living in the United States who also had European ancestry, taking blood samples to determine their blood urate levels.

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Urate is a salt produced in the body when it breaks down compounds called purines. High urate levels- known as hyperuricaemia– are associated with a higher risk of having gout as uric crystals build up in a person’s joints causing inflammation.  It had previously been hyperuricaemia was determined by what foods a person ate.  The scientists instead found genes were in fact responsible for 23.9 per cent of a person’s urate count.

The study found that while some foods such as beer, wine, spirits, potatoes, meat, eggs, and cheese were able to raise urate levels, it only did so by one per cent.

Professor Tony Merriman, lead researcher, explained, “our data challenge widely held community perceptions that hyperuricaemia is primarily caused by diet, showing for the first time that genetic variants have a much greater contribution to hyperuricaemia than dietary exposure.”

Scientists from Keele University responded to the study, saying the misconception that gout was caused by poor lifestyle meant that correct medication was sometimes not offered, explaining, “when patients develop gout, they are frequently given inaccurate or conflicting information which trivialises gout and misrepresents its causes and treatment.”

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