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Coffee is easily one of the most popular beverages around the world. In the US alone, more than fifty percent of adults drink an average of two cups of coffee a day. The effects of coffee on health have been widely researched and debated in studies on its effect on everything from breast cancer to heart disease. One of the effects of coffee that has been noted is its link to lower insulin levels and lower uric acid levels. Because those two compounds are linked to gout, the most prevalent inflammatory arthritis in men, several medical bodies mounted a major study to investigate the effects of caffeine consumption on the incidence of gout.
Gout is a common and extremely painful condition that is caused by too much uric acid in your body. There are many reasons for this happening, including dietary causes. While it is most common in men, women are at an increased risk of gout after menopause. In order to study the effect of coffee consumption on gout, researchers conducted a study that included 45,869 men over the age of 40 who had no history of gout. The study included researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada and the University of British Columbia in Canada. Dr. Hyon K. Choi and associates followed the participants for twelve years to evaluate the relationship between coffee intake and the incidence of gout in a population with a high risk of developing the condition.
The results of the study indicate that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day dramatically reduces the risk of gout for men. The participants were drawn from an ongoing study of male health professionals. They were approximately 91% white, between the ages of 40 and 75 at the start of the project. Dr. Choi’s team used a questionnaire to evaluate the frequency that certain foods were consumed, updating the answers every four years. The foods included coffee, decaf coffee, tea, cola, chocolate and other sources of caffeine.
In addition, researchers sent out a separate questionnaire to follow health conditions. Through this questionnaire, researchers found 757 cases of gout that met the criteria for gout set out by the American College of Rheumatology. They divided the long-term coffee drinkers into four groups dependent on how much coffee they consumed, and did the same for regular drinkers of other beverages in the study, including decaf coffee. They also evaluated the results for other risk factors for gout, including alcohol use, dietary triggers, body mass index and history of hypertension to rule them out as causes of significant differences between the groups.
The researchers found that the men who drank four to five cups of coffee a day had a 40% less risk of developing gout than men who never drank coffee. Those who drank six or more cups of coffee a day had a 59% decreased risk of developing gout. There was a more modest relationship between decreased risk of developing gout for those who drank decaf coffee. Those who drank tea and other caffeinated beverages showed no decrease in risk of developing gout. Based on the findings, Dr. Choi suggests that something other than caffeine in coffee may be responsible for the gout prevention benefits of coffee.
Obviously, one can’t generalize these results to the entire population, especially when a great deal of research has showed significant differences in the effects of coffee on men and women. Dr. Choi suggests that further research should be done to study the effects of coffee on gout in women and patients with existing gout.