Social Factors that Influence Health at Root of Racial Disparities in Gout
September 26th, 2022 (Vancouver)— Gout is more common in Black men and women in the United States than in white men and women, according to a new Arthritis Research Canada study. However, researchers suggest this finding is tied to social and lifestyle factors that impact health – like poverty, diet, weight etc. – rather than genetics.
The study involved 18,693 participants – 3304 Black women, 3085 Black men, 6195 white women and 6109 white men – and used data accumulated over 10 years. Researchers looked at the role of poverty, diet, body mass index (BMI), alcohol consumption, education level, diuretic use, as well as chronic kidney disease in gout risk.
“Our objective was to identify factors that could explain why more Black women and men are developing gout than their white counterparts,” said Natalie McCormick, a research trainee at Arthritis Research Canada who led this research.
Having a low household income was associated with more than two times greater odds of gout in women, a novel finding which might help to explain some of the racial differences among women with the disease. Black women also had a higher average body mass index and were 1.8 times more likely to develop this type of arthritis. Researchers pointed to poverty, which can affect a person’s diet quality and BMI, as a potential cause of higher rates of gout among black women.
The research team also found that significantly more Black women and men use diuretics, which was associated with 2.2 times greater odds of gout. Taking diuretics, which help rid the body of salt, are often used to treat high blood pressure.
The global frequency of this disease among women is disproportionately on the rise. These findings are important because gout – a type of arthritis characterized by sudden and severe attacks that involve pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in one or more joints (most commonly the big toe) – was historically considered a disease of white men who eat too much red meat and other rich foods.
Furthermore, data from two decades earlier did not find racial differences in gout prevalence. And, when researchers in this recent study accounted for social and lifestyle risk factors, racial differences disappeared, indicating that they should not be overlooked.
“Physicians need to take these factors into consideration when treating patients to improve quality of care, reduce healthcare inequities, and lower risk for this incurable disease,” McCormick said. “It is also important to treat patients in culturally informed ways and to recognize the role that poverty plays in gout risk.”
To learn more about this research, please click here.
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