Obesity And Gout

Prevalence Of Gout Has Doubled

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (NHANES III) the prevalence of gout in the United States has more than doubled over the past 20 years. It now affects more than 5 million people, with men being affected more often than women. Men naturally produce higher levels of uric acid than women do. There are several factors that have contributed to the increase of gout, among them the fact that people are living longer, there is more frequent use of diuretics and low-dose aspirin, and more incidents of hypertension, end-stage renal disease, and obesity.

Obesity, What It Is And What It Can Do

Obesity is defined as body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more and NHANES shows a rise in the prevalence of obesity of 7.6 percent from 1994 to 2000. This is attributed to dietary changes over the years toward higher meat, seafood, and fat consumption along with inactivity. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the US, with more than 280,000 attributable deaths per year.

There are many physical complications that arise in people who are obese. Insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes is complicated by the occurrence of hypertension, coronary artery disease and hyperuricemia. It is also implicated in an increased risk of gout.

How Obesity Encourages Gout

Gout, a form of arthritis in which pain, inflammation and swelling result from a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints, is exacerbated by obesity. When an individual is obese, there is additional pressure on bones, compromising the joints. Additionally, chemical changes in the body that accompany obesity set the stage for metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance. These factors predispose a person to gout, in part because of the increase in uric acid production and also the inability of the kidneys to flush uric acid from the body.  The added weight puts pressure on the kidneys making it difficult for them to function normally. This often leads to kidney stones and renal disease. Obese people are four times more likely to develop gout than those who are not obese.

What To Do

The most obvious aid in dealing with gout in obese people is to lose the excess weight. However, any weight loss endeavor should be under the guidance of a professional since a rapid loss of weight through extreme dieting can adversely affect uric acid in the body as well. If weight is lost too quickly, the body doesn't have time to adjust the various chemical levels and problems may ensue. Losing weight slowly and making dietary changes that will lessen the incidence of gout flare-ups is a beginning.

Obesity and gout can also have genetic connections. Obese people often have a genetic predisposition to it and one in four people with gout have a family history of the disease.