We’ve blogged about gout on this blog before, mainly because it’s a condition I see far too often in our office. Gout is categorized by a buildup of uric acid in the joints, oftentimes in the joint in the big toe. It’s actually defined as a form of inflammatory arthritis, and flareups can last for days or even weeks, causing periods of sharp or prolonged pain in the toe.
Researchers know that a number of lifestyle choices and controllable factors contribute to the development of gout, including heavy alcohol consumption, diabetes, poor diets or diets rich in red meat and elevated blood pressure. Taking control over these aspects of life can help reduce your risk of gout, but new research suggests that last factor – your blood pressure – may play an even bigger role in controlling gout than we originally thought.
Blood Pressure and Gout
For their study, researchers looked at clinical trial data from the DASH study, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The study demonstrated that following the DASH diet, which includes an increase in whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and a reduction in red meat, sweets and saturated fats, significantly improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels. During the study, researchers also tracked participants’ blood for various biomarkers, including levels of uric acid.
After looking at the blood work, researchers concluded:
The DASH diets led to uric acid decreases of 0.35 milligrams per deciliter.
That only represents a moderate decrease, but the team found that the change was greater for people with high levels of uric acid. Participants with a reading of 7 milligrams per deciliter at the study outset saw an average reduction of 1.3 milligrams per deciliter.
To put that in perspective, most drugs designed to treat gout generally lower uric acid levels by 2 milligrams, suggesting that simply taking control of your diet can be almost as effective as medication interventions.
“When you get as high as the reduction we believe occurred with the original DASH diet in this study, the effect starts being comparable with gout medications,” said Dr. Stephen P. Juraschek, lead author of the study.
Researchers say further studies are needed to confirm that a diet aimed at reducing blood pressure can successfully help control gout, but considering that gout currently affects more then 6 million Americans and costs the healthcare system around $7.7 billion a year, tweaking your diet while we wait for more confirmation may be a smart place to start if you suffer from the arthritic condition!