No Doubt Coffee's Good For Gout

More than half of all Americans consume 2 cups of coffee every day. Researchers have long debated the merits and demerits of the brew, believing that a cup o' Joe may impact on conditions like breast cancer and heart disease. Among the findings about the elixir is that it can lower insulin and uric acid levels, at least on a short-term basis. Such findings suggest that drinking coffee may just keep away gout, the most common form of arthritis affecting adult men.

Painful Condition

Researchers at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, University of British Columbia in Canada, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, decided to take a look at how drinking coffee might help or prevent gout, that horribly painful condition that tends to hit the big toe in the middle of the night. Participants in this study included 45,869 men, all over the age of 40, and none suffering from gout at the start of the project. Lead author of the study, Hyon K. Choi, M.D., Dr.PH, along with his colleagues, studied how coffee intake might affect the rate of gout in the study subjects, who place in the high risk category for gout. The subjects were studied over a period of 12 years. The team discovered that drinking 4 or more cups of coffee a day caused a dramatic reduction in the risk of gout in men.

Caffeine Consumption

The participants were chosen from participants in a wider study including 50,000 male health professionals between the ages of 40-75 years in 1986 when this project was begun. 91% of the subjects were Caucasian. Dr. Choi's team employed a food-frequency questionnaire to evaluate the men's coffee and caffeine consumption. The questionnaires were updated every fourth year. Subjects had a choice of 9 responses relating to the frequency of their coffee consumption, from between never, to 2-4 cups a week, and on up to 6 or more cups a day. Other caffeinated items were included in the questionnaire, for instance: cola, tea, and chocolate.

A separate questionnaire turned up 757 new cases of gout during the 12 year follow-up period. The researchers were then able to determine the risk of gout for long-term coffee consumers by dividing those diagnosed with gout into four groups: those who drank less than one cup a day, 1-3 cups a day, 4-5 cups a day, and 6 or more cups a day. The researchers were also able to factor in other caffeinated products as risk factors based on the earlier questionnaires. The research team attempted as well, to take into account other risk factors which may have been present, such as body mass index (BMI), hypertension, alcohol consumption, and a diet high in purines which are found in such foods as red meat and high fat dairy products.

It was found that the greater the coffee consumption among the subjects, the lesser their risk for developing gout. Those men who drank between 4-5 cups of coffee a day were found to have a 40% lower risk for gout, and the figure rose to 59% in those who drank 6 or more cups a day as compared to those who abstained from coffee drinking. There was some evidence that imbibing decaffeinated coffee might have the same effect as the caffeinated beverage. On the other hand, tea and total caffeine intake appeared to have no effect on the incidence of gout in the study participants. Dr. Choi suspects that a compound other than caffeine is responsible for this beneficial effect.