Gout, a painful form of inflammatory arthritis that often causes swelling in the big toe, has long been associated with a number of lifestyle factors, like eating a lot of red meat and being overweight. But can you actually prevent the condition?

A new study, presented at the 2018 American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in Chicago, suggests that it may be possible if you focus on five key variables.

The researchers used data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study to track nearly 45,000 men between 1986 and 2012. None of the men initially had gout, but 1,687 of them developed it during the study period.

Along the way, researchers collected data about the subjects’ lifestyle habits (including dietary pattern), body mass index (BMI), and medical information. In particular, they homed in on five key modifiable factors that have been previously tied to a lower risk of gout:

  • Low BMI
  • DASH-style diet
  • No alcohol consumption
  • Vitamin C supplementation
  • No use of diuretics

The researchers found that avoiding obesity was most crucial for avoiding gout, but that each of these factors were independently associated with a significantly lower risk. Put them all together and you might be able to avoid the condition entirely. The authors concluded that these “five modifiable risk factors accounted for 70 percent of incident gout cases.”

(However, once you have gout, research shows that you likely need to treat it with medication, not just diet modifications. Read more about peoples’ misconceptions about gout here.)

The study authors note that their conclusions assume a “causal relationship,” meaning they believe — but didn’t actually prove — that these five factors determine whether or not most people develop gout. But given the large size of this study and the fact that there are so many other good reasons to maintain a healthy weight, eat a produce-rich diet, and limit alcohol, adopting some healthier habits seems like a worthwhile move.

Learn About More Rheumatology Research Breakthroughs

Follow our latest ACR meeting coverage to read about the research findings that could affect your treatment, lifestyle, and overall health.

Get Involved with Patient-Centered Arthritis Research

If you are diagnosed with gout or another musculoskeletal health condition, we encourage you to participate in future studies by joining CreakyJoints’ patient research registry, ArthritisPower. ArthritisPower is the first ever patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone and inflammatory skin conditions. You can use ArthritisPower to track your disease symptoms, share patterns with your doctor, and participate in voluntary research studies. Learn more here.