According to a recent study published in The Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, gout might reduce a person's risk of Alzheimer's disease. This form of arthritis is known for being both painful and associated with cardiovascular problems, but researchers now believe there may be a silver lining to this condition. The study included nearly 300,000 participants at an average of age 65. Scientists currently do not understand the exact reason for this connection and additional testing has to be done to confirm these early results.
According to the Mayo Clinic, gout is a sudden attack of redness or pain in the joints, generally occurring at the base of the big toe. Gout generally affects more men than women and occurs due to high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. Diet can play a major role in contracting and treating gout – those with gout have to adhere to dietary restrictions to avoid flare ups. This diet includes limiting intake of meat and seafood, limiting alcohol consumption (specifically beer), avoiding complex carbs and drinking more water. Other factors include obesity, medical conditions, family history, sex and age. The Mayo Clinic notes that men often get gout between ages 30 and 50, whereas for women gout often occurs after menopause.
"Participants with gout were at a 24% lower risk of Alzheimer's disease."
Researchers set out with the objective of learning more about the potential benefits of antioxidants found in uric acid. Using the Health Improvement Network, a general population electronic medical record database in the U.K., researchers matched up to five people without gout for every participant with gout, then compared instances of Alzheimer's disease. The team excluded anyone that had prevalent dementia or gout at baseline. The pool of British men and women included 238,805 without gout and 59,204 that suffered from the ailment.
Of those without gout, scientists found 1,942 cases of Alzheimer's disease, whereas within the group that had gout there were only 309 cases. Overall, the results revealed that those with gout were at about a 24 percent lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. The findings suggest that the antioxidant properties of uric acid may help protect the brain against neuron degeneration. However, whether or not this means that uric acid may someday play a role in Alzheimer's treatment or developing methods to prevent dementia is yet to be determined.
"This is a dilemma, because uric acid is thought to be bad, associated with heart disease and stroke," Dr. Hyon K. Choi, the study's senior author and Harvard professor told The New York Times. "This is the first piece of data suggesting that uric acid isn't all bad. Maybe there is some benefit. It has to be confirmed in randomized trials, but that's the interesting twist in this story."
For the time being, the National Institutes of Health advise maintaining a healthy lifestyle of healthy eating, physical exercise and avoiding smoking to promote general well-being.