Gout is an inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the joints, often the big toe. An estimated 3–6% of men and 1–2% of women per year in Western countries experience gout.

This condition occurs when a waste byproduct known as urea builds up in your body, leading to hyperuricemia. It’s caused by overproduction of urea or an inability to excrete it through urine.

While genetics play a large role in gout, other factors can also increase your risk, such as your diet and, potentially, your weight.

You may wonder, then, if you should attempt to lose weight to help manage your gout.

This article tells you all you need to know about gout and weight loss.

Two friends walk together for exercise.Share on Pinterest
Lupe Rodríguez/Stocksy

Gout is caused by hyperuricemia, or high urea levels.

Certain hereditary and lifestyle factors can increase your risk of hyperuricemia, such as:

  • Genetics: People with a family history of gout are more likely to develop it. For instance, people with changes to certain genes, such as the ABCG2 and SLC2A9 genes, are at an increased risk of hyperuricemia.
  • Overweight/obesity: A high body weight may increase urea levels and therefore increase your risk of hyperuricemia. It can also increase your risk of metabolic syndrome and other chronic health conditions, which may further contribute to gout risk.
  • Hormones: Men are more likely to have high urea levels, since estrogen — which women have more of — may provide a protective effect.
  • Certain health conditions: Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome are linked with an increased risk of gout.
  • Diet: Foods high in purines (especially processed meats and seafood) and high fructose corn syrup may worsen gout symptoms by increasing urea levels.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is associated with a greater risk of gout.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as diuretics, baby aspirin, immunosuppressants, and chemotherapy drugs, may increase urea levels.

While these factors may play a role, gout is hereditary, which means you may still develop it regardless of your lifestyle habits or weight.

A note on gender

You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data is pretty binary — “male” and “female” or “men” and “women.”

We recognize that these terms don’t encompass all identities and experiences. However, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings, so we use the same language that the studies we cite use.

We encourage you to talk with a healthcare professional if you need support in navigating how the information in this article may apply to you.

Was this helpful?

The American College of Rheumatology currently recommends that people with overweight or obesity who have gout lose weight to help manage the condition and reduce their risk of flare-ups.

One large study found a link between body mass index (BMI) and gout incidence and flare-ups. Over the course of 7 years, people with obesity were significantly more likely to develop gout than people with “normal” BMIs (less than 25 kg/m2).

In addition, those whose BMIs decreased by 5% had 39% lower odds of gout flare-ups, while those whose BMIs increased by 5% had a 60% increased risk.

Another study that included 11,079 people also found a relationship between obesity and gout. Study participants who had obesity throughout adulthood and those who gained weight in adulthood had an 84% and 65% increased risk of gout, respectively.

A review of 10 studies on gout and weight loss found that losing 7.7 pounds (lbs.) (3.5 kg) or more may reduce gout attacks.

However, the authors argue that most studies on this topic are small and low quality, and they suggest that we need larger, higher quality clinical trials.

Further, a large 27-year study among 44,654 men found that 77% of gout cases may have been prevented through strategies such as maintaining a “normal” BMI, following a nutritious eating pattern, and limiting alcohol and diuretics.

In particular, the study found that excess adiposity, or fat stores, was one of the largest risk factors. Interestingly, adopting healthier lifestyle habits did not seem to be beneficial in men with obesity if their weight was not also reduced.

Ultimately, it appears that weight loss, and particularly fat loss, may help people with obesity and gout manage their symptoms.

Keep this in mind

The BMI has limitations as a predictor of health, especially for People of Color.

And although studies often suggest that obesity is a risk factor for health conditions, including gout, they rarely account for the role weight stigma and discrimination play in health.

Weight discrimination in healthcare can deter people at high body weights from seeking medical care, and those who do may not receive accurate diagnoses or treatment, because doctors attribute their health concerns solely to their weight.

As a result, any health condition a person may have may be more advanced by the time they receive a diagnosis. That may make the relationships between weight and disease seem stronger than they actually are.

Meanwhile, experiences of weight stigma in daily life, even outside of medical settings, are associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes.

Was this helpful?

If you want to lose weight to help manage gout symptoms, it’s important to do so in a safe and healthy way. That means it’s best to skip fad diets, which can lead to mental health challenges, nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, metabolic issues, and other effects.

For sustainable weight loss, try to adopt habits that you can continue to follow in the long term. Consider:

You may also wish to work with a registered dietitian, who can make personalized recommendations based on your medical history, food preferences, and budget.

In addition, it’s important to make sure you’re staying active when you can.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, but any increase in physical activity is a great starting point.

Getting proper sleep and doing your best to manage stress are also important for well-rounded health and may support weight loss, if you choose to pursue it.

For most people, it’s generally safe to lose around 1–2 lbs. (0.45–0.9 kg) per week from a calorie deficit.

While losing weight may help with gout symptoms, there are other tips you can follow to manage the condition:

  • Limit foods high in purines: Foods high in purines may increase urea levels. In particular, highly processed red meats, organ and game meats, and seafood are commonly linked with gout. Check out these tips for following a low purine diet.
  • Limit foods high in high fructose corn syrup: Sweetened beverages and other foods containing high fructose corn syrup may make gout symptoms worse. While more research is needed, it’s best to limit added sugars in your diet.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol: Experts recommend that people with gout (and the general population) limit or avoid alcohol because of its negative effects on health.
  • Stay active: Though the relationship between gout and physical activity remains unclear, exercising can help you reduce stress, manage your weight, and reduce your risk of other chronic health conditions. All of these effects could help you manage gout.
  • Manage other chronic conditions: Other chronic conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes, can worsen gout symptoms.
  • Work with a healthcare professional: A qualified healthcare professional may recommend medications and other treatments to help you manage gout symptoms.

Gout is an inflammatory form of arthritis that can result from genetics or lifestyle factors.

While genetics play a large role, overweight or obesity can increase your risk of developing gout and experiencing recurring flare-ups. Thus, losing weight may be beneficial for some people.

However, keep in mind that gout is hereditary and may not be related to your weight or lifestyle habits.

If you want to manage your gout symptoms, there are other things you can do besides losing weight, such as eating a nutritious diet, limiting foods high in purines, avoiding alcohol, and managing any other chronic conditions you may have.

It’s best to work with a healthcare professional such as a physician, as well as a registered dietitian, who can make personalized recommendations for your treatment — including a nutritious, culturally appropriate eating pattern that can help you manage gout.