That's Not Rich Gout, a type of arthritis that can cause painful swelling of the foot and big toe, used to be called a disease of kings because it was tied to wining and dining in excess. But rising incidence is showing it to be a class-blind nemesis. Health officials estimate the ailment, resulting from uric acid buildup in the blood, affects 840 of every 100,000 people in the United States. That's twice as many as in the 1960s -- a jump that can't be explained by demographics alone. Diet could play a bigger part.
It's the Fat, Stupid Foods high in saturated fats, including red meat, appear to increase risk, said Hyon Choi, director of outcomes research at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital; the popular, protein-rich Atkins diet is one possible culprit, he said. Trans fats (think fried foods and commercial baked goods) and alcohol also spell potential trouble, he said. So do some low-fat foods like dried beans and shellfish.
Not Just for Men Between the ages of 40 and 50, men are about twice as likely as women to experience gout, suggesting estrogen plays some protective role. After menopause, the gap narrows. Most gout patients respond well to decades-old therapies like the drugs allopurinol -- for reducing uric acid levels -- and ibuprofen -- for relieving pain and inflammation. Patients are also advised to exercise dietary restraint. Meanwhile, consumption of dairy products may protect against gout, according to Choi's research, published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine. A new treatment called febuxostat, if approved as expected by the Food and Drug Administration, would be the first new gout medication in 40 years.
-- Rita Zeidner