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Warding off the joint pain of gout may be as easy as eating right, a new study suggests.

Gout, a joint disease that causes extreme pain and swelling, is caused by excess uric acid in the blood. It’s the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, and its incidence has risen among Americans over recent decades, Harvard researchers noted.

But the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet — which is high in fruits and vegetables, and low in salt, sugar and red meat — can lower levels of uric acid in the blood.

The American Heart Association has long supported the DASH regimen as a way to help avoid heart disease.

“Conversely, the [unhealthy] Western diet is associated with a higher risk of gout,” said Dr. Hyon Choi, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues. The “Western” diet describes the fatty, salty, sugar-laden fare of many Americans.

One nutritionist wasn’t surprised by the new findings, pointing out that the DASH diet is low in compounds called purines, which break down to form uric acid.

“I can see how the DASH diet may benefit someone with gout,” said Jen Brennan, clinical nutrition manager at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “The DASH diet avoids excessive consumption of red and organ meats known to have high purine levels.”

Brennan added that the DASH diet “also encourages high intake of fruits and vegetables. We want to encourage fluids and vitamin C for these patients to help rid the body of uric acid, and fruits/vegetables can support this.”

In their study, the Harvard researchers analyzed data from more than 44,000 men, aged 40 to 75, who had no prior history of gout. The men provided information about their eating habits every four years between 1986 and 2012.

Over the study period, more than 1,700 of the men developed gout.

During 26 years of follow-up, those who followed the DASH diet — high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, and low in salt,…



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