Gout, which has been called “the disease of kings,” is associated with the lifestyle that most people in the industrialized world enjoy these days. It will affect about 1-2 percent of adults in richer countries at one point or another over the course of their lives, which have lengthened considerably since the days when kings were the rule rather than the exception. About half of all cases of the painful arthritic condition occur in the big toe.
Lead exposure has long been known to be strongly associated with susceptibility to gout. But in a new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, Stanford rheumatologist Eswar Krishnan, MD, and his colleagues used data from an annual federal health survey, the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, to show that the risk of gout increases even at very blood levels of lead – about one-twentieth of that considered to be “elevated” under current standards promoted by organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Lead exposure in the industrialized world has been generally declining. Moreover, more than 90 percent of the lead in a person’s body resides in bone and takes decades to leach out. So for most of us adults, at least, the lion’s share of any risk in the lead-exposure department may already be baked into the cake.
Meanwhile, as Krishan’s study notes:
Chelation therapy… can mobilize lead from the body, but its effectiveness is not consistent across studies… Future research will help decide whether the effect of [low blood levels of lead are] amenable to therapy and, if so, what might be the optimal intervention. Specific treatment recommendations cannot be made until then.
Sorry to drop that lead balloon on you. But fortunately, treatments to relieve symptoms (NSAIDs being the front-line therapy) are easily available in the here and now.