Here’s some good news for female coffee-lovers: new research shows that long-term coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of gout in women. The significant risk reduction in this study was seen with more than four cups per day.
Gout, a condition characterized by painful inflammatory arthritis, has historically been considered a male disease. Up until now, most of the research on gout prevention and treatment has been focused on men exclusively–and a 2007 study revealed that regular coffee consumption was linked to a significantly lower incidence of gout among men. However, this new study shows that women who drink even just one cup a day can lower their risk of gout by 22%.
A study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined coffee consumption and the risk of gout incidence in 89,433 females from the Nurses’ Health Study over a 26-year period. Ultimately, researchers found a decreased risk of developing gout among those who drank more coffee. Specifically, the risk was 22% lower for those who consumed one to three cups of coffee per day, and 57% lower for those consuming greater than or equal to 4 cups/day (compared with the risk of gout in those that did not consume any coffee.) There was also a modest reduction in risk for those consuming greater than or equal to one cup of decaf per day. Tea consumption had no effect on the incidence of gout.
Gout is characterized by the buildup of uric acid in the blood, which then accumulates in the joints and causes inflammation and arthritis. Identifying modifiable risk factors is important to prevent the disease. Caffeine may reduce the build-up of uric acid by inhibiting an enzyme that catalyzes the production of uric acid. But the fact that there was an also association between decaf coffee and reduced gout risk suggests there may be another compound in coffee also at work. For example, long term coffee drinking is associated with decreased insulin concentrations in the blood stream. Insulin reduces the excretion of uric acid, so less insulin means more uric acid is excreted, and the risk of gout may be reduced. Other components in coffee, such as magnesium, potassium, and various antioxidants, may also play a role.
For most healthy people, moderate doses of caffeine — 200 to 300 milligrams, or about two to four cups of brewed coffee a day — aren’t harmful. Bear in mind that some medical conditions may warrant limiting or even avoiding caffeine. But so far, the benefits of moderate coffee intake seem to outweigh the risks: we’ve heard about several other health benefits associated with regular coffee drinking, so this research is yet another justification for continuing your coffee habit.