Gout 'reduces Alzheimer's risk'
People with a history of gout have a 24% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, a study has found.
The condition, known as the disease of kings due to Henry VIII famously suffering from it, appears to have a protective effect on the brain, researchers said.
They said this is possibly thanks to the excess uric acid that is built up during a gout attack.
The study was carried out in the United States but analysed people in the UK by looking at The Health Improvement Network (THIN), an electronic database from GPs' surgeries around the country.
Researchers looked at at 3.7 million people aged 40 and over but excluded anyone already diagnosed with gout or any dementia.
Analysis was carried out of Alzheimer's disease amongst adults with gout compared with up to five without it, matched by age, date of study entry, enrolment year and body mass index (BMI) using THIN data.
Overall, the researchers identified 309 new cases of Alzheimer's disease among 59,224 patients with gout, and 1,942 cases among 238,805 people in their comparison group over an average five-year follow up.
They found there was a 24% lower risk of Alzheimer's amongst people with a history of gout, after taking into account age, sex, BMI, socio-economic status, lifestyle factors, prior heart conditions and use of heart drugs.
The report concluded: "Our findings provide the first population-based evidence for the potential protective effect of gout on the risk of AD (Alzheimers' disease) and support the purported neuroprotective role of uric acid.
"If confirmed by future studies, a therapeutic investigation that has been employed to prevent progression of PD (Parkinson's disease) may be warranted for this relatively common and devastating condition."
The study, carried out at the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Immunology at Massachusetts General Hospital and at Boston University Medical Centre, is published online in the Annals Of The Rheumatic Diseases.
Last year it emerged that the number of people suffering from gout is on the rise, with h ospital admissions for the painful condition rising by a fifth over the last five years in England.
Associated with a diet rich in purines such as red meat, seafood and beer, t he most common symptom is a sudden and severe pain in the joint along with swelling and redness.
Men are most commonly affected, and other factors that increase a person's risk include their age, being overweight or obese or having high blood pressure or diabetes.