TAIPEI, TAIWAN. Gout is a painful illness that, like arthritis, causes joint inflammation with acute pain, swelling, redness, and heat. The main joint on the large toe is the most likely target, but the knee, elbow, and thumb joints can also be involved. Gout is caused by uric acid crystallizing in the joints. Researchers at the Veterans General Hospital have just completed an investigation that confirms that a high blood level of uric acid is the main cause of gout attacks. Their study involved 223 men with elevated uric acid levels (greater than 7.0 mg/dL) who were followed for five years. During this time 42 of the men (19 per cent) had a gout attack. The risk of having an attack was found to be far greater among men with a high uric acid level (61 per cent for men with a level above 9.0 mg/dL and 11 per cent for men with a level below 8.0 mg/dL).
Excessive alcohol consumption (especially if infrequent) combined
with a uric acid level above 8 mg/dL was also predictive of an
increased risk for an attack as was obesity and the use of
diuretics (thiazides). Editor's Note: Although there is a
strong genetic component to gout many patients can eliminate
attacks by avoiding foods which produce uric acid in the body
(rich foods, coffee, sugar, white flour products, and purine-rich
foods such as red meats, shellfish, organ meats, asparagus, and
anchovies). A vegetarian diet helps prevent gout attacks by
creating an alkaline environment in the body.