A study published in 2011 in Arthritis Care & Research, adds one more piece of information to the obesity-gout puzzle. It found that obese men and women are more likely to develop gout at a younger age than their normal-weight counterparts.  

Previous studies have found that the incidence of gout – a form of inflammatory arthritis caused by crystallization of uric acid inside the joints – has gone up during the past 20 years, and that obesity increases the likelihood of gout in men.

“Our study confirms an increase in the risk of developing gout in obese men and extends these findings to women. We further found that participants who were obese in early adulthood developed gout earlier than those who were not obese,” says lead author Mara A. McAdams DeMarco, PhD, who conducted the study when she was a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The researchers looked at data from 15,533 people, aged 13 to 87 years. The participants were a subset of a larger study, called CLUE II, examining cancer and heart disease. CLUE II was started in 1989 and included people living within or near Washington County, Md. During the 18-year follow-up period, 517 people from the subset reported having developed gout.

At the start of the study, 16 percent of participants were obese, 36 percent were overweight and 48 percent were normal weight. After adjusting for risk factors linked to gout (including sex, age, alcohol intake, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol), obesity was found to be an independent risk factor for the development of gout in both men and women.