What is gout? Can a person participate in the “Lean for Life” program if they have gout?

Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men and affects more than 3.4 million people yearly. Gout is caused by the buildup of uric acid in the joints. It most commonly causes pain and tenderness in the joints of the big toe, ankle, and knees but it can occur in any joint. Gout also affects women but usually only after menopause. Gout can be very painful and impair walking.

A recent study reported in the March 11, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found certain dietary practices linked to gout. The study included 47,000 healthy men studied for 12 years to see who would develop gout. Here is what they found:

Those men eating the most meat (beef, lamb, or pork) were 41% more likely to develop gout compared to those eating a low intake.

• Those eating the most sea food had 51% higher risk of developing gout.

• Those drinking 2 glasses of non-fat milk daily had 41% lower risk of developing gout compared to those drinking less than 1 glass of milk daily. Nonfat milk appears to be protective against gout.

• A higher intake of vegetable proteins did not increase the risk of gout and neither did a moderate intake of purine-rich vegetables (such as spinach).

• Persons who drank alcohol had a higher risk of gout.

• Overweight men were more likely to develop gout.

You can help decrease the likelihood of developing gout by losing to a healthy weight, participating in regular exercise, drinking a lot of water and controlling your diet.

Many individuals who have gout have successfully participated in the “Lean for Life” program. During the Weight Loss phase of the program, it is unlikely that the amount of meat eaten will significantly contribute to gout. Although some individuals may experience a temporary exacerbation of symptoms, most individuals who take gout maintenance medication on a regular basis don’t experience symptoms during the program.