Gout: Another Area for Omega-3 Fatty Acids?


The disease of kings" can be a royal pain.

The “disease of kings” can be a royal pain.

Gout is a centuries-old disease that was frequently associated with overindulgences only a king could afford: food and wine. Now, it’s a common man’s disease linked strongly to obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.

Because of uric acid build-up in the body, urate crystals deposit in the joints, causing gout. A hallmark sign is intense inflammation, typically in the big toe.

Sometimes, affected patients have difficulty tolerating gout treatments, so clinicians need to individualize each patient's treatment with a mix of lifestyle changes and medication.

A group of researchers recently proposed a novel approach to gout management in the April 2016 issue of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. They hypothesized that omega-3 fatty acids may prevent acute gout attacks through their anti-inflammatory effects.

The study assessed 112 men, and the researchers established 2 arms:

· 31 patients in the case arm had had 2 or more gout attacks in the past year

· 81 patients in the control arm had fewer than 2 gout attacks

The researchers assessed baseline characteristics in all patients and compared age, body mass index, tophi, serum uric acid, treatment, and disease duration with patients' serum omega-3 fatty acid levels.

Participants who reported more than 2 acute gout attacks in the past year had lower omega-3 fatty acid levels. This suggests that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation could potentially help decrease the risk of gout attacks.

This study had many caveats, including the facts that gout attacks were self-reported and the sample was very limited. The researchers ignored diet and lifestyle risk factors, creating a possibility of confounding factors and self-report bias. Their retrospective analysis also didn’t test the effects of supplementing omega-3 fatty acids; it only identified a correlation of depressed omega-3 fatty acid serum levels with gout attacks.

The authors acknowledged that more study is needed to confirm the association. Still, their results raised an interesting potential therapy supplementation for effective gout management.

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