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Researchers say people with metabolic syndrome have a higher risk of gout. Eddie Pearson/Stocksy
  • Metabolic syndrome (MetS) appears to increase the likelihood of several conditions occurring together, such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • The syndrome is not a singular, distinct disease, but rather a collection of risk factors that have been associated with an increased likelihood of developing other conditions.
  • Now, researchers at Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in South Korea, are reporting that people with metabolic syndrome also have an increased risk of gout, a type of arthritis that causes pain and swelling in the joints.

A new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology looked at almost 1.3 million men between the ages of 20 and 39 years who went for health check-ups.

The link between changes in the participants’ metabolic syndrome (METs) and the development of gout was analyzed.

They used a database that had information about gout diagnoses to see who developed the condition and then used a statistical model to analyze the relationship between changes in metabolic syndrome and the development of gout.

They reported that men who had metabolic syndrome or who developed MetS were more likely to get gout. The risk was even higher if the men had high triglycerides and abdominal obesity, which are two components of MetS.

If an individual exhibits at least three of the following five symptoms, a doctor may consider the possibility of metabolic syndrome:

  • Central, visceral, abdominal obesity, specifically a waist size of more than 40 inches in males and over 35 inches in females.
  • Fasting blood glucose levels at or above 100 mg/dL.
  • Blood pressure readings of 130/85 mm/Hg or higher.
  • Blood triglyceride levels at or above 150 mg/dL.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels at or below 40 mg/dL for males and at or below 50 mg/dL for females.

Gout is a common type of arthritis that results in severe discomfort, inflammation, and inflexibility in the joints.

Typically, it impacts the metatarsophalangeal joint, which is located at the base of the big toe.

The condition occurs because of an excessive accumulation of uric acid in the body.

In the recent study, 18,473 men developed gout.

Those who had metabolic syndrome at every health check-up had an almost four times higher risk of getting gout compared to those who never had MetS.

The researchers also reported that if a participant developed MetS, their risk of getting gout doubled.

However, if someone recovered from MetS, their risk of getting gout was reduced by almost half.

Out of all the MetS components, high triglycerides and abdominal obesity had the strongest link to the risk of developing gout, the researchers said.

The link between changes in MetS and gout was more significant in people in their 20s than in their 30s as well as those who were underweight or had normal weight.

This is the first time a large-scale study has investigated the link between changes in metabolic syndrome and the risk of gout.

The researchers reported that preventing MetS or recovering from it can significantly reduce the risk of gout in young adults.

Dr. Dung Trinh, the chief medical officer at Healthy Brain Clinic who was not involved in this research, spoke to Medical News Today about the study.

He said it “highlights the link between metabolic syndrome (MetS) and gout, suggesting that individuals with MetS are at a higher risk of developing gout.”

The study also emphasizes the importance of managing MetS through lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and weight management to reduce the risk of developing gout. These findings can be valuable in developing effective prevention programs for individuals with MetS who are at risk of developing gout.

Dr. Dung Trinh

Nancy Mitchell, RDN, a registered nurse and contributing writer at Assisted Living Center who was also not involved in the study, highlighted to MNT that “the paper describes the direct correlation between metabolic syndrome and the risk of developing gout—a form of inflammatory arthritis.”

“Higher incidences of metabolic syndrome – a combination of obesity, insulin resistance, and heart disease – increased the risk of gout among men between ages 20 to 30,” she added.

What stands out most is the increased impact of metabolic syndrome on men within their 20s especially. The rise of fast food consumption and high-fat, high-sugar diets has led to spikes in the incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and gross obesity throughout the younger population.

Nancy Mitchell, RDN

Trinh notes that “it is important for individuals with MetS to be aware of this potential risk and take steps to manage their condition through lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and weight management.”

Healthcare professionals should also consider monitoring individuals with MetS for signs of gout and providing appropriate treatment if necessary.

Dr. Dung Trinh

Mitchell highlights that “if anything, the results of this study should serve as a wake-up call for the youth. Hypertension and diabetes are no longer ‘diseases for the aged.'”

“Gout is just one of the many additional risks that come with these chronic conditions. Early onset of these diseases not only reduces the quality of life but could also cause a downtrend in lifespans within the next few decades,” she said.

Trinh had several suggestions “to propagate the findings of this study to the general public and develop a gout prevention program,” noting that the following steps could be taken:

  • Create informative materials such as brochures, posters, and infographics that explain the link between MetS and gout. These materials should also provide information on how to manage MetS through lifestyle changes.
  • Partner with healthcare providers such as primary care physicians and endocrinologists to disseminate information about the study findings and promote gout prevention measures.
  • Utilise social media: Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share information about the study findings and promote healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Conduct workshops or webinars for individuals with MetS to educate them about the link between MetS and gout and provide guidance on how to manage their condition through lifestyle changes.
  • Collaborate with community organizations such as local health departments or wellness centers to reach a wider audience in promoting gout prevention measures.”