Beer and hard liquor have long been known to increase the risk of gout, the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, but according to a 2014 study in The American Journal of Medicine, wine also can contribute to recurrent gout attacks.
Gout occurs when excess uric acid builds up around joints – often in the big toe, but also in the feet, ankles, knees, wrists and elbows – leading to episodes of intense pain, redness and swelling. It affects more than 8 million adults in the United States, and the numbers are rising sharply, due mainly to obesity and other lifestyle factors.
In the 2014 study, 724 gout patients completed questionnaires every few months as well as after gout attacks about their diet, medications, exercise and number of alcoholic drinks consumed. The researchers compared what a participant consumed on an average day to what that participant had consumed in the 24 hours before a gout attack. Researchers looked at the overall effect of alcohol on gout attacks as well as the individual effects of wine, beer and liquor, while taking diet and other factors into account.
Results showed that a single serving of wine, beer or liquor (either straight or in a mixed drink) in a 24-hour period didn’t significantly increase the chance of repeat gout attacks. But consuming more than one to two drinks a day did – by 36%. With two to four drinks, the risk rose 50%, and it continued to rise with the amount of alcohol consumed.
When the three types of alcohol were compared, wine was actually a significant trigger. Drinking between one to two glasses of wine in the 24 hours before the attack raised the risk of recurrent attacks by 138%; in other words, it more than doubled the risk of a gout attack, compared to drinking no wine. By contrast, drinking two to four beers in the 24 hours before an attack increased the risk by 75%.
The researchers point out that these results apply to men; findings for women are less clear, mainly because so few women were in the study. Study author Tuhina Neogi, MD, a professor at Boston University School of Medicine, says, “But the patterns of alcohol’s effects on risk of gout attacks were generally similar to [those] seen in men.”
Dr. Neogi says, “Based on this study, I would counsel gout patients that any type of alcohol may trigger an attack; it’s not just beer or liquor but also wine. Each patient is different, so a ‘safe’ limit can’t be uniformly set, but obviously abstaining from alcohol would avoid any risk of attack due to [its use].”
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