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Genes, not diet, main cause of gout: study

The belief that a poor diet is the primary cause of gout is untrue, British research suggests.

The joint disease, which can cause extreme pain and swelling, is much more likely to be brought on by genetics, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.

Scientists at Keele University in Staffordshire says people with gout can be reluctant to get treatment because of the social stigma associated with having a poor diet.

The study, which was carried out by a research team in New Zealand, counters "these harmful but well-established views and practices, and provides an opportunity to address these serious barriers to reducing the burden of this common and easily treatable condition".

The researchers used data from more than 16,000 American men and women of European ancestry to reach its conclusions.

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, which can form crystals that collect around joints.

While diet is not the key factor, it can have a small impact on the likelihood of getting gout, the researchers say.

Consuming beer, wine, spirits, potatoes and meat can raise the risk of getting gout while cheese, eggs, peanuts and brown bread can lower it.

However, each of these foods or drinks is responsible for less than a one per cent variation in levels of the acid.

Similarly, a comparison of healthy and unhealthy diets showed there was only a 0.3 per cent variation in levels of the acid.

By contrast, almost a quarter of the variation can be explained by genetic factors.

Gout is most common in men who are aged 40 or older.

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