Out with Gout

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Men who eat more red meat and seafood have a higher risk of gout, the most common kind of inflammatory arthritis in men. Men who eat more low-fat yogurt, milk, and other low-fat dairy foods have a lower risk.

Gout sufferers get deposits of uric acid crystals in their joints, causing pain, redness, and swelling. Overweight and alcohol raise the risk.

For decades, researchers have assumed that purine-rich foods were also to blame because some--particularly meat--raise uric acid levels in the blood. (Purines are part of DNA; some come from food, while others are made by the body.) But researchers had never before tracked healthy men to see who would develop the disease over time.

In this study of 47,000 men, only red meat and seafood were linked to a higher risk. Purine-rich vegetables--like beans, peas, lentils, spinach, mushrooms, and cauliflower--as well as poultry were not.

What to do: Gout is one more reason to eat less red meat, lose excess weight, and limit alcohol. (Unless you already have high blood uric acid levels, it's not worth cutting back on seafood, which may protect your heart.) Gout is uncommon in women, especially premenopausal women, in part because estrogen lowers blood uric acid levels.

New England Journal of Medicine 350: 1093, 1071, 2004.

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