Special Diet Designed to Lower Blood Pressure Can Also Fight Gout

A new Johns Hopkins study finds the DASH diet for lowering blood pressure can help with gout. Maximilian Stock Ltd./Getty Images

There are some benefits to getting older, like wisdom, experience and the senior discount at Shoney's. As the body takes on additional years, however, the human machinery starts to show a little wear and tear. That includes a variety of nagging and painful ailments like arthritis, glaucoma and osteoporosis. The good news is that at least one common and recurring disorder for older folks can be staved off by loading up on the veggies and staying away from bad fat.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recently found that a diet meant to help reduce blood pressure also does a pretty good job of combating gout, a painful form of arthritis that tends to hit people later in life. As a new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology concludes, that's because a diet rich in fruits and vegetable and light on saturated fats appears to reduce uric acid, the culprit behind gout attacks.

"Results of this trial are good news to patients with high blood levels of uric acid or those at risk for gout," Johns Hopkins medicine professor Edgar R. Miller said in a press release. "A dietary approach to prevent gout should be considered first-line therapy."

Gout tends to take aim in particular at the toes and feet, but it can also rear its ugly head in joints throughout the body. It causes a painful, burning sensation that can keep you up at night and make it difficult to move around during the day. The condition is most common among older men, but has also been found to effect women after menopause. Although gout is treatable, those who've had a bout with it remain at risk of recurrence.

The common thinking on gout is that it's a result of too much uric acid in the system. Your body produces uric acid when you eat foods and drink beverages heavy in compounds called purines. That includes a variety of foods that for most people are probably easy enough to avoid, like dried beans, liver and anchovies. The tricky part is that beer and wine are also known to carry a buzzworthy level of purines.

The Johns Hopkins study is something of a relief for tipplers, barflies and those who simply like a good glass of wine or two with dinner. The researchers observed more than 400 participants who ate either a typical diet or one that focuses on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and goes light on salt, red meats, sweets and saturated fats.

The latter way of eating — called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) approach — has long been touted for reducing blood pressure. The researchers also found those on the blood pressure diet also said their uric acid levels decrease. That was particularly true for participants who started with elevated levels of the gout-causing compound in their systems.

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