New research indicates the uric acid buildup in gout may help protect the brain against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The uric acid that makes gout so painful may help reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

That’s the conclusion of a study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University published today in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.

Scientists concluded the antioxidant properties of uric acid may help protect against the development and progression of these brain-related conditions.

“Our findings provide the first population-based evidence for the potential protective effect of gout on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and support the purported neuroprotective role of uric acid,” the authors of the report wrote.

The researchers also hope to use their new findings to develop a drug that could halt the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

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The researchers used information from The Health Improvement Network, an electronic medical record database that is representative of the general population of the United Kingdom. They looked at records from 1995 to 2013.

The researchers studied 3.7 million people in the database older than 40.

Researchers followed up with participants until they developed Alzheimer’s, died, or left the database. Individuals diagnosed with gout or any form of dementia prior to the follow-up were excluded.

Overall, the researchers identified 309 people who developed Alzheimer’s from a group of 59,244 with gout. They also found 1,942 Alzheimer’s cases in a group of 238,805 comparable people without gout.

So, the researchers found there was a 24 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s among the group with gout, after taking into account factors such as age, gender, body weight, socioeconomic status, and differences in lifestyle.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Gout »

Gout is a general term for a variety of conditions caused by the buildup of uric acid. It has been linked to heart and kidney problems.

Gout can be caused by certain blood and metabolic disorders. Drinking too much alcohol or eating too many foods rich in purine, especially red meat and seafood, can also trigger gout.

Gout usually affects the feet, especially the big toe. It can attack other parts of the body as well.

People with gout usually feel swelling and pain in the joints of their feet. A severe attack of gout can make it feel like a person’s foot is on fire.

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