'Disease of kings' not believed to be linked to diet: Study

Dr Tanya Major. Photo: Supplied
Dr Tanya Major. Photo: Supplied
Traditional links between the development of gout and the consumption of rich food may be inaccurate, with genetics far more likely to lead to high urate levels in the blood, researchers say.

Diet has a far smaller influence on urate levels- a precursor to gout- than previously thought, a University of Otago study of urate levels in a healthy population has found.

Dubbed "the disease of kings", gout has long been linked to rich food. However researcher led by post-doctoral fellow Dr Tanya Major has found no single food studied explained more than 1 % of variation in serum urate levels.

When all foods in combination were considered, less than half a percent of the urate variation was explained.

Genetic variants explained substantially more of the variation in serum urate among the participants involved.

"It came as no surprise that genetic factors have a larger influence on serum urate than dietary factors, but what did surprise us was the magnitude of this difference, an almost 100-fold increase," Dr Major said.

"This is contrary to popular medical opinion and the common perceptions of the general public.

"We hope it will encourage medical practitioners to focus on other ways to manage urate levels and prevent gout flares, such as allopurinol use, rather than focusing on dietary modifications which are likely to be of little help to the patients.

However Dr Major said caution was urged around the results, since the study- a "first step"-  was conducted in a healthy population.

"The research now needs to be carried out among people with gout.

"We cannot say for certain that there won't be a greater influence from diet in the urate levels of those people," she said.

"However for diet to explain so little of such an essential component in the cause of gout is an important finding." 

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