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Caffeine May Trigger Gout Attacks

Increased Caffeine Intake Linked to Recurrent Gout Attacks in Study

Short-Term Caffeine Intake Linked to Gout continued...

Participants were asked to log on after having their next attack and answer an extensive questionnaire about medication, foods, and drinks they had consumed in the 24 hours prior to the attack. Three months after being free of flare-ups, they were asked to answer the same questions.

The researchers asked about all types of caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, soft drinks, and high-energy drinks such as Red Bull as well as non-caffeinated beverages.

Participants were predominantly white (89%), male (78%), and college educated (58%).

The link between increased intake of caffeinated beverages in the prior 24 hours and a higher risk for recurrent gout attacks was present even after accounting for other fluid intake.

In contrast, non-caffeinated coffee, tea, soda, and juices were not associated with an increased risk of gout attacks, Neogi says.

The researchers did not ask participants about the amount of sugar in their beverages. Therefore, the findings cannot be compared to that of another study presented at the meeting showing that women who drink one or more servings of sugary soda a day may be increasing their risk for developing gout, she adds.

Internet Research for Gout and Caffeine: Pros, Cons

Using the Internet to recruit patients for a study is not ideal, as it results in a self-selected sample that is interested in the topic, says John S. Sundy, MD, PhD, a gout expert at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Also, the group as a whole would be expected to be better educated and of higher socioeconomic status than people drawn from the general population, he notes.

That said, "It's a way to accumulate a large number of patients in a short period of time. It's good for generating hypotheses" that can then be tested in more rigorous clinical trials, Sundy tells WebMD.

Neogi defends the use of the Internet for studies like this, pointing out that it allows each person's caffeine intake prior to an attack to be compared to her intake when she is attack-free.

"That way, you don't have to have to worry about whether factors like age, weight, and lifestyle affected the results [which you do when one group of people is compared with another]. Plus, it's doubtful that caffeine affects a college-educated, high-paid person more than a poor, college dropout," she says.

Further research is needed, Neogi agrees. In the meantime, "people with gout who are already habitual caffeine drinkers probably do not need to change their habits, given that long-term caffeine intake can potentially lower uric acid levels," she says.

"But the person who doesn't drink a lot of caffeine on a regular basis should be aware that drinking more than usual may potentially trigger an attack. And I would not advise someone with gout to start drinking coffee as a way to lower uric acid levels due to its short-term effects," Neogi says.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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