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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
Alcohol does increase gout risk
Beer
Beer is the biggest risk
Scientists have at last proved that drinking increases the odds of getting gout - but the level of risk depends on your tipple of choice.

Although it has long been suspected that gout was linked to alcohol, the theory had never been proved.

Now a study of nearly 50,000 men has found those who over-indulge in beer, in particular, are at heightened risk.

The research, published in The Lancet, was carried out by a team at Massachusetts General Hospital.

They found that the condition was less likely to be linked to drinking spirits. People who drank a moderate amount of wine had no increased risk at all.

These findings suggest that certain non-alcoholic components that vary across these alcoholic beverages play an important role
Dr Hyon Choi
Alcohol consumption triggers increased production of a substance called uric acid.

When this is deposited in joints it leads to gout by stimulating an intense inflammatory reaction resulting in red, swollen and painful joints.

The researchers followed 47,000 male medical staff over a 12 year period, during which time 730 developed gout.

Men who drank two or more beers per day were 2.5 times more likely to develop gout than those who did not drink.

The same level of spirit consumption raised the risk - but only by 1.6 times.

And drinking a moderate amount of wine each did not appear to increase the risk at all.

Key ingredients

Lead researcher Dr Hyon Choi said: "These findings suggest that certain non-alcoholic components that vary across these alcoholic beverages play an important role in the incidence of gout."

Dr Choi said the key may be compounds called purines, which are found in high quantity in beer, but less so in other types of alcoholic drink.

He believes it may be possible that purines act on uric acid in the blood to augment the effect of the alcohol itself.

Gout has been on the increase in the developed world for the past 30 years.

Although the condition is easily treated, complications can cause kidney damage.

In a commentary published in the same edition of The Lancet, Dr Qing Yu Zeng, of Shantou University Medical College, China, said: "The cause of gout is related to both genetic and environmental factors, but the increasing prevalence of gout is mainly due to environmental factors.

"Increased consumption of alcoholic beverages is one of these environmental factors."

He said it may not necessarily be that different types of alcohol have a differing effect.

"Could it be that people with preferences for different alcoholic beverages and amount of intake also differ in their dietary composition and lifestyle habits?"




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"Nearly 50,000 men were monitored over 12 years"



SEE ALSO:
Gout on the increase
09 Mar 03  |  Health


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