Consuming ultra-processed food is associated with a higher risk of gout, according to a recent study in Rheumatology.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the UK and Canada, analyzed data from the UK Biobank study, a large-scale prospective cohort study that includes genetic and lifestyle information from over 500,000 people.
The study included 181,559 individuals who were free of gout at baseline and followed them for a median of 9.6 years. Ultra-processed food consumption was defined according to the NOVA classification, which categorizes foods based on the extent and purpose of food processing. The genetic predisposition for gout was developed by a genetic risk score of 33 single nucleotide polymorphisms.
The results of the study showed that 1,558 patients developed gout over the follow-up period. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, including age, sex, body mass index, smoking status, alcohol intake, and other dietary factors, the researchers found that compared with the lowest quartile of ultra-processed food consumption, the highest ultra-processed food consumption was associated with a 16% higher risk of gout. The relationship between ultra-processed food consumption and gout risk was non-linear, suggesting that even moderate levels of ultra-processed food consumption may be detrimental.
In addition, the study found that replacing 20% of ultra-processed food with unprocessed or minimally processed foods was associated with a 13% lower risk of gout. This suggests that dietary interventions aimed at reducing ultra-processed food consumption may be an effective way to prevent gout.
The study also found that the risk of gout was higher in participants with high genetic predisposition and high ultra-processed food consumption compared with those with low genetic predisposition and low ultra-processed food consumption. This highlights the importance of considering both genetic and environmental factors when developing strategies for gout prevention.
“Our study highlights that reducing [ultra-processed food] consumption is crucial for gout prevention,” the researchers wrote. The authors of the study also noted that while the findings are consistent with previous research on the health risks of ultra-processed food consumption, further research is needed to confirm the causal relationship between ultra-processed food consumption and gout risk, and to identify the specific mechanisms involved.