To many people, gout seems like a disease of the past. Cartoons from 200 years ago depicted it as a condition afflicting the wealthy (“the disease of kings”), whose gluttonous consumption of food and drink was thought to bring on the attacks of debilitating arthritis.
All these years later, much about gout is still misunderstood. Shame, derision, and the belief that the gout sufferer deserves the condition linger. And rather than being a disease of the past, gout is quite common — and rates are rising. Estimates suggest gout affects nearly 4% of the adult population in the US, an increase from prior decades. And it’s not a disease limited to the well-to-do; it affects people of all economic classes.
The most likely explanations for the rising rates of gout are an aging population and excess weight. Both are major risk factors for the disease. The expanding waistline of the average American probably plays a bigger role than age, since overweight and obesity have increased more rapidly than the average age of Americans in recent decades.
A study of gout suggests ways to avoid it
Even though research has identified some preventable risk factors for gout, the impact of modifying them is uncertain. Now a new study published in JAMA Network Open has found that more than three-quarters of gout cases affecting men might be completely avoidable. And since gout affects men more often than women, this finding is notable.
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 45,000 men who completed detailed surveys about their health, habits, and medications every two years for 25 years. Comparing those who developed gout (nearly 4%) with those who did not, four factors were identified as protective:
- normal body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight and height (see calculator)
- no alcohol consumption