The association between alcohol consumption and risk of gout has been suspected since ancient times, but has not been prospectively confirmed. Additionally, potential differences in risk of gout posed by different alcoholic beverages have not been assessed.
Over 12 years (1986-98) we used biennial questionnaires to investigate the relation between alcohol consumption and risk of incident gout in 47150 male participants with no history of gout at baseline. We used a supplementary questionnaire to ascertain whether reported cases of gout met the American College of Rheumatology survey gout criteria.
We documented 730 confirmed incident cases of gout. Compared with men who did not drink alcohol, the multivariate relative risk (RR) of gout was 1·32 (95% CI 0·99-1·75) for alcohol consumption 10·0-14·9 g/day, 1·49 (1·14-1·94) for 15·0-29·9 g/day, 1·96 (1·48-2·60) for 30·0-49·9 g/day, and 2·53 (1·73-3·70) for 50 g/day (p for trend <0·0001). Beer consumption showed the strongest independent association with the risk of gout (multivariate RR per 12-oz serving per day 1·49; 95% CI 1·32-1·70). Consumption of spirits was also significantly associated with gout (multivariate RR per drink or shot per day 1·15; 95% CI 1·04-1·28); however, wine consumption was not (multivariate RR per 4-oz serving per day 1·04; 95% CI 0·88-1·22).
Interpretation Alcohol intake is strongly associated with an increased risk of gout. This risk varies substantially according to type of alcoholic beverage: beer confers a larger risk than spirits, whereas moderate wine drinking does not increase the risk.