A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, nuts and whole grains but low in salt, sugary drinks, and red and processed meats, is associated with a lower risk of gout, researchers have concluded.
In contrast, a typical “Western” diet is associated with a higher risk of gout, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
“The DASH diet may provide an attractive preventive dietary approach for men at risk of gout”
Gout is most common in men aged 40 and older and is caused by excess uric acid in the blood, which leads to uric acid crystals collecting around the joints.
The study authors noted that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet reduced blood pressure, was recommended to prevent heart disease and had also been found to lower uric acid levels in the blood.
Therefore, the surmised that the DASH diet may lower the risk of gout as well. To investigate, the researchers from the US and Canada examined dietary patterns for links with gout risk.
They analysed data on over 44,000 men aged 40 to 75 years with no history of gout who completed detailed food questionnaires in 1986 that was updated every four years through to 2012.
Each participant was assigned a DASH score, reflecting high intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, and low intake of salt, sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats.
They were also given a Western pattern score – reflecting higher intake of red and processed meats, chips, refined grains, sweets and desserts.
During 26 years of follow-up, a higher DASH score was associated with a lower risk for gout, while a higher Western pattern was associated with an increased risk for gout.
The Gout by James Gillray
The associations were independent of known risk factors for gout, such as age, body mass index, high blood pressure, and alcohol and coffee intake, said the study authors.
They acknowledged that it was an observational study, so no firm conclusions could be drawn about cause and effect.
Nevertheless, they said the DASH diet “may provide an attractive preventive dietary approach”, as it also treats high blood pressure, which affects the vast majority of gout patients.
Therefore, the DASH diet has the potential to “kill two birds with one stone”, said the researchers.
The findings also provide support for future intervention studies to examine the effects of the DASH diet on blood uric acid level among gout patients, as well as for the risk of gout flares, they added.