Gout is the most common form of arthritis and affects an estimated 8.3 million individuals in America. The painful condition results in a limited range of motion, lingering pain and intense joint pain. However, gout may not be all bad. A new study has found that gout may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s. Learn more about it’s part in preventing the disease.
What is Gout?
Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis and affects over 8 million Americans. This extremely painful condition is caused by needle sharp uric acid crystals that produce an excess of uric acid in the blood known as hyperuricemia. In addition to gout, high levels of uric acid can cause kidney stones and lead to heart problems.
Gout typically affects men and obese individuals, but diet also plays a large role in the risk of developing gout. People prone to gout should avoid red meat, beer, sugary drinks, poultry and seafood.
Symptoms of gout usually occur suddenly at night. They include:
- Intense joint pain usually in the big toe
- Lingering discomfort and pain
- Inflammation and redness
- Limited range of motion
One upside to this painful condition? A new study has found it may protect the brain from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The Relationship between Gout, Uric Acid and Alzheimer’s
In a study published in “Writing in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases,” researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University found that people who have had gout have a 24% lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
The research team observed 59,224 people with gout and another 238,805 people without gout of the average age of 65 years old, over a five year period. No one in the study was diagnosed with gout or dementia prior to the beginning of the study. Throughout the course of the study, researchers identified 309 cases of Alzheimer’s in the patients with gout and 1,942 cases among the people without gout. The team controlled for other factors include age, gender, lifestyle, and weight and concluded the group with gout was 24% less likely to eventually develop Alzheimer’s.
Previous evidence has found that the same uric acid which can cause gout also has strong anti-oxidative properties. Researchers believe that the anti-oxidative properties of uric acid may be repairing damage to cells and DNA caused by free radicals offering protection from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Lead researcher Hyon Choi, a professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School said:
“As a major natural antioxidant in the body, uric acid has been estimated to account for more than 50% of the antioxidant capacity of plasma. With these potentially neuro-protective properties, uric acid has been hypothesized to protect against oxidative stress, a prominent contributor to dopaminergic neuron degeneration in Parkinson’s disease, which may also play an important role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.”
While this study has determined a correlation between uric acid and Alzheimer’s, researchers are unwilling to say that uric acid protects the brain from Alzheimer’s. Lead researcher Hyon Choi is cautiously optimistic stating, “If this happens to be true, then we are talking about potentially major implications. But, again, [it is] still speculative at this point.” He went on to say,
“If confirmed by future studies, a therapeutic investigation that has been employed to prevent progression of Parkinson’s disease may be warranted for this relatively common and devastating condition.”
What do you think about the “upside” to gout, and how it may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s? Share your thoughts on the study in the comments below.