Patients who have the inflammatory arthritic condition gout are significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study involving UK patients.
Gout appears to have a protective effect for the brain, possibly thanks to uric acid, the chemical in a person’s blood that can crystallize and lead to gout, said the US researchers.
They noted that previous studies have theorised that the antioxidant properties of uric acid may protect against the development or progression of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease.
The team, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University Medical Center, evaluated the potential impact of gout on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease among the general population.
Their study was based on data from UK general practices, from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 2013. They looked at 3.7 million people aged 40 and over.
Overall, the researchers identified 309 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease among 59,224 patients with gout and 1,942 cases among 238,805 people in the comparison group over an average five-year follow up.
They found there was a 24% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease among people with a history of gout, after controlling for lifestyle factors, prior heart conditions and use of heart drugs.
The study authors said: “Our findings provide the first population-based evidence for the potential protective effect of gout on the risk of Alzheimers’ disease and support the purported neuroprotective role of uric acid.
“If confirmed by future studies, a therapeutic investigation that has been employed to prevent progression of Parkinson’s disease may be warranted for this relatively common and devastating condition,” said the researchers online in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.