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Fruit, vegetables and whole grains may cut risk of gout

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Eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains may lower the risk of developing gout, according to new research published by The BMJ.

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a flexible eating plan that is rich in fruit and vegetables, nuts and whole grains and low in salt, sugary drinks, and red and processed meats. The diet reduces blood pressure and is recommended to prevent heart disease. It has also been found to lower uric acid levels in the blood.

In the new study, a team of researchers in the US and Canada examined the relationship between the DASH and typical Western diets and the risk of gout.

They analysed data on a total of 44,444 men who took part in the ongoing, long-term Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The participants, who had no history of gout, completed detailed food questionnaires every four years from 1986 through to 2012.

Each participant was assigned a DASH dietary pattern score (based on high intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, and low intake of salt, sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats) and a Western dietary pattern score (based on high intake of red and processed meats, chips, refined grains, sweets and desserts).

During 26 years of follow-up, a higher DASH score was associated with a lower risk for gout, while a higher Western dietary pattern was associated with an increased risk for gout.

These associations were independent of known risk factors for gout, such as age, body mass index, high blood pressure, and alcohol and coffee intake, The BMJ explained.

The study authors noted that this was an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and some limitations could have introduced bias.

However, they added that the DASH diet “may provide an attractive preventive dietary approach for the risk of gout” as it also treats high blood pressure, which affects the vast majority of gout patients. This means that it has the potential to “kill two birds with one stone”.

The findings also provide support for intervention studies to examine the effects of the DASH diet on blood uric acid level among gout patients as well as for the risk of gout flares, the authors concluded.