Using data from a government health survey, researchers found that an estimated 4% of US adults – or 8.3 million people – had gout. That compares with just over 1% between 1988 and 1994.
Rising rates of both obesity and high blood pressure appeared to account for most of the increase, said Dr Hyon K. Choi, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and the senior researcher on the study.
The high prevalence of gout in recent years is not surprising, Dr Choi told Reuters Health.
Gout constantly on the rise
"It had been on the rise before," he said, "and there was no reason to believe that it would be slowing down, since risk factors are on the rise."
Dr Choi has served as an advisor to Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which also funded the study.
Takeda makes the gout medication Uloric (febuxostat) and had obtained the North American marketing rights for the diet pill Contrave (naltrexone SR/bupropion SR), which was rejected by US regulators earlier this year.
The current findings, reported online in Arthritis & Rheumatism, are based on data from a periodic federal health survey of US adults.
Obesity linked to gout
Dr Choi's team compared the 2007-2008 survey, which included 5,700 adults, with surveys done between 1988 and 1994, which involved nearly 19,000 men and women.
In the latest survey, about 4% of respondents said a doctor had diagnosed them with gout. That was true of only 1.2% of respondents in the earlier surveys.
Those numbers were backed up by objective tests as well. In the most recent study, more than 21% of men and women had high uric acid levels, versus only 3% in the 1988-94 surveys.
When Dr Choi's team factored in obesity and high blood pressure rates, they appeared to account for the rising gout prevalence.
"The prevalence of gout is substantial," Dr Choi said, "and it's likely related to the worsening obesity epidemic."
(Reuters Health, September 2011)
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