Gout is much more likely to be brought on by genetics than a poor diet which has long been thought of as the primary cause of the joint disease, new research suggests.
Gout can can cause extreme pain and swelling but scientists at Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, say people with the condition can be reluctant to get treatment because of the social stigma associated with having a poor diet.
The study, which was carried out here in New Zealand by a research team at the University of Otago, counters "these harmful but well-established views and practices, and provides an opportunity to address these serious barriers to reducing the burden of this common and easily treatable condition".
The Press Association reports researchers used data from more than 16,000 American men and women of European ancestry to reach its conclusions.
Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, which can form crystals that collect around joints.
Consuming beer, wine, spirits, potatoes and meat can raise the risk of getting gout while cheese, eggs, peanuts and brown bread can lower it.
However, each of these foods or drinks is responsible for less than a one per cent variation in levels of the acid, the study found.
And a comparison of healthy and unhealthy diets showed there was only a 0.3 per cent variation in levels of the acid.
But almost a quarter of the variation could be explained by genetic factors.
Gout is most common in men 40 or older.