Alcohol Use: Are You at Risk for Gout?

Since medieval times, there has been a suspicion that alcohol and excessively rich foods play a part in how a person gets gout. Based on modern testing processes, we know that alcohol raises the uric acid levels in the body, and that uric acid causes gout.

But, until recently, the connection between alcohol and gout was still merely a suspicion based on what appeared to be truth. According to the April 17 issue of The Lancet, alcohol use does increase the risk for gout.

Perhaps because of the yeast used to create the product, beer is the worst offender, with liquor following close behind. Those who prefer a glass of wine every now and again needn't worry, as wine consumption in moderate doses does not show an increased risk.

Alcohol Consumption and Gout Risk

Following a Health Professional Follow-up Study begun in 1986, with its foundation stemming from the Harvard School of Public Health, data has been collected that backs suspicion with solid statistics. In one study, a total of 47,150 men with no history of gout were enrolled. Within 10 years, 750 had developed gout.

After further evaluation, it became apparent that those who drank more than 50 g of alcohol, or five drinks per day, were two and one-half times more likely to develop gout than men who did not drink alcohol. When higher amounts of alcohol were consumed, the likelihood of developing gout rose accordingly.

While daily consumption of two or more 12-ounce bottles of beer showed the same risk, drinking an eight ounce glass of wine did not appear to increase the risk. This conclusion showed a startling surprise: Ounce for ounce, beer appeared to be the worse culprit. It also brought the question of why wine, which is also alcohol, did not, at least to some degree, have the same affect. Is it possible wine holds a clue to protecting the individual from gout?

Gout Affects Both Sexes

While gout used to be thought of as a man's disease, some women also develop gout. In both sexes, gout typically occurs around the age of 60 or older. In women, the risk for gout risk rises with alcohol consumption, age, the onset of obesity and/or hypertension, diuretic use, and consuming certain foods.

While alcohol has been scientifically realized to cause gout in both sexes, it has also been determined that flare-ups in women follow a much lesser dose of alcohol. Gout risk in women also rises tremendously after menopause, leading scientists to believe estrogen may be involved.

Though hormones have been suggested as the culprit, without further testing there is no definitive answer as to why excessive beer drinking bumped the risk of developing gout in men to double, but at the same time upped the risk sevenfold for women.

Why Does Alcohol Cause Gout Risk?

Gout is a debilitating form of arthritis that generally centralizes in the big toe, but can manifest in other areas of the body as well. Gout flare-ups occur when uric acid levels rise. Excessive uric acid then forms into sharp crystals in the joins.

This action is accompanied by swelling and redness in the area, and the resulting pain can be excruciating. The chemical purine in the alcohol is what causes the issue. While purine is a natural chemical created in the body, some protein and alcohol based foods contain excessive amounts of it.

Purines are broken down into uric acid, but when high levels of uric acid are present, often the body cannot break down the uric acid quickly enough. This build up of uric acid then settles into joints. In studies, recurrent gout attacks have been traced back to within one day of an alcoholic binge of more than seven alcoholic drinks of either beer or liquor.


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