All alcohol, even wine, raises risk of gout flare-ups

February 5, 2014 in Men's Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

All alcohol, even wine, raises risk of gout flare-ups

Bad news for gout sufferers who enjoy drinking wine: new research finds that all types of alcohol, even previously exempt wine, can bring on attacks of the painful condition.

Gout is a form of arthritis marked by sudden attacks of painful, inflamed joints, usually the big toe but your feet, ankles, knees and hands and wrists can also be affected.  More than half of people who have had a gout attack will have a recurrence within one year.

One in 30 Canadians has gout, with men four times more likely than women to develop the condition. It usually shows up between the ages of 40 and 50 in men and after menopause in women.

A 2004 landmark study of more than 47,000 men found that drinking beer and hard liquor - but not wine - increased the risk of developing gout.

Neither has wine been shown in other studies to bring on attacks in people who already have gout, the way beer and liquor have.

To investigate the effects of all types of alcohol on the short-term risk of a gout flare-up, the researchers examined survey responses from 724 adults with gout, 78 percent of them men, from across the United States between 2003 and 2012.

Study participants completed questionnaires every few months about their gout attacks, medications, exercise, alcohol use and diet.

The more alcohol they drank, the greater their risk of having a gout attack within 24 hours. A five-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer or up to 1.5 ounces of liquor were considered one drink.

The researchers compared the study participants to themselves on days when they had no alcohol.

When participants had a single drink, the risk of gout attack didn't change much. But with one to two drinks in a 24-hour period, the risk of a gout attack rose by 36 percent. With two to four drinks, the risk rose by 50 percent.

Wine was one of the worst triggers, at least for men. Regularly drinking a glass or two of wine hiked the odds of recurrent attacks by 138 percent, and drinking two to four servings of beer raised the risk by 75 percent.

"Moderate drinking," which is one drink for women and two drinks for men, did not significantly raise women's risk, but there were too few women in the study to estimate the effect, the researchers note.

The study results indicate that alcohol intake, regardless of type, can increase the risk of gout attacks, and increasing amounts of alcohol intake of any type, even at moderate levels, can increase likelihood of painful gout attacks.

Wine may not have raised the risk of developing gout in past studies for a variety of reasons. People who drink only wine tend to have healthier diets and lifestyles, overall, than people who drink only beer, for example. That may have masked wine's effect on gout in the 2004 study.

Because this new study controlled for diet, it’s unlikely that wine drinkers' healthier lifestyles explained differences between the results from these two studies.

Source: The American Journal of Medicine online January 21, 2014.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.