The average age for developing gout was 59.3 years. Compared with non-obese participants, the onset of gout was 3.1 years earlier in participants who were obese at the start of the study and 11 years earlier in those who were obese at age 21. This discrepancy was seen in both men and women. In fact, obese participants were almost twice as likely to develop gout over an 18-year period than non-obese participants.

“This research suggests that it is important to consider the diagnosis of gout in obese patients [with arthritis symptoms] regardless of age. It is unclear from this research whether weight loss would prevent the occurrence of gout or decrease the number of gout flares,” Dr. McAdams DeMarco wrote in an email.

Earlier studies have shown that weight loss can reduce the risk of gout.

“These findings are not surprising. The study confirms the rising incidence of gout is associated with Americans’ eating habits that lead to obesity. The incidence of gout parallels the rising incidence of features of the metabolic syndrome, including obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia [abnormal cholesterol levels] and glucose control,” says Herbert S.B. Baraf, MD, clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  

Others agree. "This study adds to the evidence that the obesity epidemic is killing us. Gout is just the tip of the iceberg. At least gout is treatable and controllable, but obesity also contributes to heart disease and diabetes, which are tightly linked to gout,” says Thomas Geppert, MD, a rheumatologist in private practice in the Dallas area and a previous recipient of Arthritis Foundation grants.

"There is no question that efforts are needed to combat obesity, but unfortunately we have not yet found effective behavioral interventions. My patients who are obese or overweight know that it is unhealthy and know that they should be exercising and dieting,” says Dr. Geppert. But he acknowledges it is easier said than done.