Men who have a high intake of vitamin C can almost halve their risk of developing gout, according to US research.
The findings suggest a simple approach to preventing gout and coincide with an increase in the number of UK cases of the condition, fuelled by increasing levels of obesity.
Latest figures reveal a 17 per cent rise between 2007 and 2008 in the number of prescriptions made by GPs to treat severe attacks of gout.
For the study, researchers examined the relationship between vitamin C intake and the risk of developing gout in 46,994 men, aged 40 to 75, between 1986 and 2006.
The men who took part were asked to complete a dietary questionnaire every four years. At two-year intervals they reported whether they had been diagnosed with or had developed symptoms of gout.
Over a follow-up period spanning 20 years, a total of 1,317 men went on to develop gout.
After adjusting for other risk factors, such as BMI and hypertension, the incidence of gout was found to fall with increasing vitamin C consumption.
Men with the highest daily vitamin C intake, 1,500mg and greater, reduced their risk of developing gout by 45 per cent compared with men who had the lowest vitamin C intake, less than 250mg a day.
Men who had a moderate vitamin C intake of 1,000 to 1,499mg per day lowered their risk of gout by 34 per cent.
The researchers propose that higher levels of vitamin C can lower the risk of gout by increasing the rate at which uric acid is reabsorbed by the kidneys.
They conclude that 'vitamin C intake may provide a useful option in the prevention of gout'.
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