An estimated 5 million Americans are known to have suffered from gout, a form of arthritis that typically occurs in overweight and middle-aged men. It is a type of rheumatic disease that, most often than not, causes chronic and intermittent pain attacks in the joints of the wrist, hand, ankle, knee, and foot. It is caused by excess levels of uric acid that has been built up and formed into needle-like crystals in the joints, causing inflammation in the joints.
How Gout Develops
Once proteins have been processed in the body, it produces a waste product called uric acid. Typically, uric acid is removed through urination. However, high levels of uric acid can form into crystals and are deposited around the tendons and joints. This causes swelling, inflammation, stiffness, and chronic pain.
Gout and Alcohol Consumption
Although genetics have been linked to gout, there is no question that lifestyle plays a vital contributing factor. Beer consumption, for instance, has been associated with gout attacks for many years, but recent research studies have finally confirmed the association.
One compelling study conducted by Hyon K. Choi, MD, department of medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston followed more than 47,000 men over the course of twelve years. The study concluded that drinking as few as two to four beers a week increased the chance of gout by 25%. The men who drank two beers a day had an increased risk of gout by 200%. The more beer they drank, the more likely to get gout indicating that beer is directly related to gout.
How Alcohol Increases the Risk of Gout Attacks
Individuals with gout are often advised to avoid foods and beverages with high levels of purine, a substance that causes uric acid build ups. High-purine foods may include fatty red meats, organ meats like liver and specific types of seafood. High-purine beverages include all types of alcoholic beverages and beer is on top of the list.
There are two ways that alcohol increases the risk of gout attacks:
1. Alcohol inhibits uric acid removal in the body. Once it is metabolized in the body, it turns into lactic acid, which competes with the uric acid in the kidney during the elimination process or urination. This leads to high levels of uric acid retention in the body.
2. Alcohol also contributes to increased levels of uric acid in the body. It increases the ATP levels in the body, which then convert into AMP – a substance that allows easy buildup of uric acid in the body.
While indulgence on high-level purine foods and beverages are the main culprits of gout attacks, it is drinking alcoholic beverages (specifically beer) that seem to make the greater contribution.
Fields, Theodore R., MD, FACP. “New Data on Diet and Alcohol and the Risk of Gout.” Hospital for Special Surgery. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2016.
Gibson, T., A. V. Rodgers, H. A. Simmonds, and P. Toseland. “Beer Drinking And Its Effect On Uric Acid.” Rheumatology 23.3 (1984): 203-09. Web.
“To Avoid Gout, Avoid Stout.” Consumer HealthDay. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2016.