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Arthritis Health Center

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Caffeine May Trigger Gout Attacks

Increased Caffeine Intake Linked to Recurrent Gout Attacks in Study

Caffeine's Chemical Structure Similar to Standard Gout Medication continued...

The chemical structure of caffeine is very similar to that of a medication called allopurinol, which is commonly used to lower uric acid levels in people with gout, she says. Although effective at controlling gout in the long term, allopurinol can precipitate a flare-up among patients taking it for the first time, she says.

"Given the potential conflicting effects of caffeine on gout attack risk, we evaluated whether caffeinated beverage intake was associated with the risk for recurrent flare-ups," Neogi says.

Short-Term Caffeine Intake Linked to Gout

The researchers turned to the Internet to recruit 633 participants who had experienced a gout attack within the past year. Medical records were used to confirm their gout diagnosis.

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.

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