gout illustration

How to Keep the Gout Monster at Bay

The salty, sugary Western diet has been linked to gout; but fear not, there are ways to avoid developing this nasty form of arthritis.


As if you needed another reason to cut out fast food and sugary temptations, here’s one to add to the pile. A 26-year-long study of the highest-risk demographic for gout – men aged between 40 and 75 – found that foods typically part of a Western diet were linked to this nasty form of arthritis.

Food frequency questionnaires notched up all the scores for the different diets of the 44,444 subjects. Typical salty and sugary indulgences were listed as “Western”, while the healthy counterparts went under “DASH” – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Veggies, nuts, fruits, legumes and low-fat dairy products, as well as a low intake of sodium and sugar, all come under DASH.

Nothing surprising there, of course. Governments and NGOs have been mulling over strategies to eliminate poor diets and their related complications a lot in recent years.

A total of 1,731 confirmations of gout were noted at the end of the study, and these correlated heavily with a Western dietary pattern score.

Fries, red meat, Coke, cakes, and the rest of the usual suspects all contribute toward incidence of gout. A McMaster University study also tells us that environmental factors such as the inaccessibility of healthy food outlets influences our indulgence more than we think.

The final figure for risk of incidence was adjusted to allow for factors such as age, body mass index, high blood pressure, and alcohol and caffeine consumption. The bottom line is: stop having fun or else the gout monster will come and gobble up your foot at night.

Well, not exactly.

The dreaded gout

A high count of uric acid in the blood is the cause of gout. This isn’t a sure thing, however – many people never develop gout despite having high levels of uric acid. The problem starts if and when the uric acid begins to crystallize and deposit in your joints.

The number one spot for a gout attack to emerge in is your big toe, but other joints in the foot or elsewhere in the body are susceptible as well.

Attacks typically come in the night and cause swelling, a sharp pain, and tenderness in the affected area. Left untreated, they can go on for days or even several weeks, yet it might not return for years.

A separate randomized trial found that the DASH diet significantly lowers uric acid levels and has been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and kidney stones.

The authors note that the American College of Physicians has expressed skepticism towards treating gout via drugs. The results of this study are significant for gout care, therefore, as the battle can be shifted more to diet instead of pills.

So fear not, you don’t need to sacrifice your beloved triple grande caramel macchiato or other such guilty pleasures. Just be sensible about it, and the gout monster won’t have a reason to show up.

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Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.