HealthDay News — The painful and often debilitating arthritic condition known as gout may offer patients an unexpected bonus: a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
A new study finds that gout — or the high uric acid level that drives the inflammatory condition — may shield against the dementia.
“Our work shows the potential protective effect of a high level of uric acid and gout against the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Hyon Choi, MD, a professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology, allergy and immunology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The study comes after prior research that had suggested that people with gout might also have a lower risk for other neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
In the new study, published online in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, Choi’s group looked at a database involving the medical records of 3.7 million British patients over the age of 40, tracked between 1995 and 2013.
The investigators looked specifically at two groups: more than 59,000 gout patients and nearly 239,000 gout-free patients.
According to the researchers, more than 1,900 of the gout-free patients developed Alzheimer’s disease, compared to only about 300 gout patients.
After accounting for factors such as age, gender, obesity levels, heart health history and socio-economic status, Choi’s team found that people with gout had a 24% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
But wouldn’t treating gout and easing its symptoms eliminate the anti-Alzheimer’s benefit? Choi said that’s unlikely.
“By the time a gout patient starts taking anything to lower his [uric acid] levels, a lifelong exposure to elevated uric acid has already occurred,” he said. “So the future impact on Alzheimer’s risk is likely to be irrelevant.”
Choi, HK. Gout and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a population-based, BMI-matched cohort study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2015; doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2014-206917.