Gout and dietary guidelines
Gout is a recurring type of arthritis that occurs when there’s a build-up of uric acid in your big toes (most commonly), fingers, ankles, elbows, knees or wrists.
Gout inflammation only lasts a few days, but is so painful that sufferers don’t soon forget an episode.
This condition is caused by an overabundance of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is produced by the breakdown of purines, which are naturally found in the body, but which are also present in certain food types.
Factors that can precipitate a gout attack include:
- Being overweight
- Increasing age
- Alcohol intake
- Eating foods rich in purines
- Starvation or a very low energy diet
- Not drinking enough water
- Kidney problems
- High blood pressure
Who’s at risk?
Men are much more prone to developing gout than women, although post-menopausal women also run an increased risk.
Gout tends to be inherited. In fact, 25% of the relatives of gout patients develop this condition and/or have raised blood urate levels. Older people tend to be more susceptible to gout than younger men and women.
Recent research suggests that the rate of gout in Australia has been steadily rising since the 1960s, and now affects 70,000 Australians a year.
A 2011 study carried out by researchers from Brisbane and New Zealand found 16.5% of Australian men over 70 had gout, falling just short of levels in New Zealand, which has the world’s highest rate of gout.
Although there are no recent studies on Aboriginal populations and gout, an Internal Medicine Journal report shows that Australian Aboriginal populations also experienced a rise in gout prevalence from 0% in 1965 to 9.7% in males and 2.9% in females in 2002.
Diet dos and don’ts
Indulgence in rich food and plenty of alcohol can leave many people with painful joints. So it’s safe to say that the correct diet plays a role in the prevention and treatment of gout.
The American Medical Association says a balanced diet for people with gout should:
- Provide more than 30% of calories from fat (10% animal fat)
- Be low in protein (15% of calories from sources such as soy, lean meats, poultry)
- Be high in complex carbohydrates (from sources such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables)
Stock up on foods that are low in purine (but only snack on them lightly). Some foods containing negligible amounts of purine include:
- White bread and crackers
- Butter or margarine
Speak to your doctor or to a registered dietician for a list of low-purine foods.
Overindulge in foods with a high purine content. The following are some of the foods that contain 100 to 1,000mg of purine nitrogen per 100g:
- Gravies and consommé
- Offal such as heart, liver, kidney
- Meat extracts
- Yeast (baker’s and brewer’s yeast, taken as a supplement)
Again, it’s always best to consult a doctor or a registered dietician for a comprehensive list of foods to avoid.
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