Controlling your weight is crucial if you have gout. Results from a 52-year follow-up study published in 2010 at Boston University School of Medicine found that obesity is a leading risk factor for gout.

Approximately 71 percent of people with gout are overweight and 14 percent are obese – defined as a body mass index (BMI – a measurement of weight in relationship to height) of more than 30. Calculate your BMI. The researchers led by Hyon Choi, MD, DPh, analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study for 2,476 women and 1951 men.

This isn’t the first study to make that connection. A 2005 study, also led by Dr. Choi,  found that men who gained more than 30 pounds since age 21 had more than twice the risk of gout compared to men who hadn’t. And those who had lost more than 10 pounds reduced their risk by 30 percent. Dr. Choi used data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, a large ongoing study of 51,529 Caucasian male health professionals. The 2005 Nurses Health Study had similar results for women.

The rise of gout over the last two decades (from 45 to 62.3 per 100,000) parallels the increase in obesity from 22.9 percent during 1988-94 to 30.5 percent in 1999-2000. According to the Boston University study, people are eating more meat, seafood and fat, drinking more beer, and exercising less – habits that worsen both obesity and gout.

Obesity also heightens other risk factors people with gout face, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and high cholesterol. And obesity increases stress on joints, exacerbating the pain and inflammation that accompanies gout.

Obviously, losing weight is one way to control both the risks that come with obesity and the risk of gout. But speak to your doctor about the safest way to go about it. Although losing weight is a good thing, losing weight too quickly or by fasting can temporarily raise uric acid levels, possibly bringing on a gout attack. Aim to lose slowly, about one to two pounds a week.