Gout is one of the most painful conditions known to medical science. Here’s how cartoonist James Gillray, a gout sufferer, depicted the disease in the year 1799:
Back then, gout was a disease of the rich, who could afford to eat lots of meat and drink lots of booze:
Gout results from the buildup of crystals of uric acid in the joints. Sometimes, this buildup can be very severe. If you want to see how bad it can get, click here.
The good news is that gout can be prevented and treated by proper diet. Scientists have known for centuries that gout results from eating too much meat. Gout is common in the United States but is virtually unknown in societies where people eat a starchy, plant-based diet. The best way to prevent and control gout is to correct the diet. One word of caution: rapid weight loss, even from a switch to a healthy diet, can trigger an attack of gout, because of the sudden release of uric acid resulting from the loss of body fat.
In an upcoming post, I’ll explain why people get gout, why gorillas could but don’t get gout, and why real carnivores like dogs and cats and real omnivores like rats can’t get it.