The new study is based on data from nearly 46,000 male medical professionals enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Over 12 years, 757 of these men developed gout, report Hyon K. Choi, MD, DrPH, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and colleagues.
Because the men filled out detailed diet questionnaires, Choi's team was able to track the men's self-reported use of coffee and tea.
They found that the more coffee the men drank, the less likely they were to have gout.
Drinking one to three cups of coffee a day lowered gout risk by only 8%. But drinking four or five cups a day dropped gout risk by 40%. And true coffee addicts -- those who drank six cups a day or more -- had nearly a 60% lower risk of gout.
Caffeine, whether from coffee, tea, or both, was not related to gout risk. Tea, it turned out, did not decrease gout risk.
But decaffeinated coffee did have an effect, although it wasn't as large as the effect of the high-test brew. Men who drank one to three cups of decaf had a 33% lower risk of gout. Those who drank four cups of decaf a day -- or more -- had only a 27% lower gout risk.
It's not clear why coffee lowers gout risk. Choi and colleagues note that coffee is a major source of a strong antioxidant, phenol chlorogenic acid, that may affect gout risk.
"Our findings are most directly generalizable to men age 40 years and older (the most gout-prevalent population) with no history of gout," Choi and colleagues suggest.
It's not yet known whether women who drink coffee are at lower risk of gout.
The findings appear in the June 2007 issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.
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