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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Lower gout risk for coffee lovers
coffee beans
Coffee's action appeared to be unrelated to caffeine
Drinking four or more cups of coffee a day may cut the risk of having a painful attack of gout, say Canadian scientists.

A University of British Columbia team found blood uric acid levels - which are linked to the condition - were lower in people who drank more coffee.

But tea had no measurable effect, suggesting that the active ingredient was not caffeine.

The work is published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.

Condition of the joints

Gout affects about 600,000 people in the UK, with numbers thought to be increasing in recent years.

Its symptoms, which are often joint pains in the lower limbs, happen when uric acid crystallises out of the blood into the joints.

Drinking too much beer, or eating too much red meat are thought to be to blame for many cases.

The main way to tackle the condition is to take anti-inflammatory pills, change diet and drink more water, or in more severe cases, to take more powerful drugs to reduce uric acid levels in the blood.

The latest research looked at the eating habits of 14,000 men and women between 1988 and 1994.

This information was compared with the results from blood tests for uric acid.

No caffeine link

The researchers found that those who drank four or more coffees a day were more likely to have a much lower uric acid level in the blood, compared with those who drank one or fewer cups.

Tea had no measurable effect but decaffeinated coffee did, suggesting that the active ingredient was not caffeine.

The team claim that coffee drinking can lead to lower insulin levels in the blood, and that there is an established link between higher insulin levels and higher uric acid levels.

The results back the findings of an earlier, much smaller, Japanese study.

Dr Andrew Bamji, a consultant rheumatologist and President of the British Society of Rheumatology, said: "There is no reason why coffee consumption shouldn't have an effect on blood uric acid levels - although this is the first study I've seen which comes to this conclusion."

However, he said that there was no certainty that high blood uric acid levels - the only test carried out by the researchers - would cause gout.

"Some people have elevated uric acid levels throughout life without ever having an attack of gout," he said.

Alcohol does increase gout risk
15 Apr 04 |  Health
Gout on the increase
09 Mar 03 |  Health

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