WELLINGTON, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand researchers have rebutted the notion that gout is a lifestyle disease linked to diet and affluence with the discovery of evidence that the country 's indigenous Maori population suffered the affliction in pre- European times.
Studies of historic newspapers and the records of early European missionaries, doctors and explorers have supported findings of the signs of gout in early Maori skeletal remains, University of Otago researcher Anna Gosling said on Monday.
However, European observers failed to recognize the disease among Maori as being gout, often referring to it in early reports as rheumatism, a term to describe general inflammatory joint diseases.
"Most of the papers discussing gout in Maori talk about gout as if it is a disease primarily related to transitions to modern lifestyles and the adoption of a Westernised diet such as soft drinks, alcohol and highly processed foods," Gosling said in a statement.
Gout had long been perceived as a disease of the aristocracy, related to affluence and sumptuous lifestyles.
"The Europeans who were reporting on the presence of certain diseases among the Maori may not have recognized the disease which the Maori were suffering as being gout because Maori were not living lifestyles of luxury and excess as seen in the upper echelons of European society at the time. This may be the basis for the high rate of 'rheumatism' being reported by such observers, " she said.
The study and the skeletal evidence showed that genetic factors played a significant role and were likely to have meant that Maori and other Pacific islanders had suffered from gout well before first European contact.
While lifestyle, particularly diet, could contribute to the likelihood of developing gout, it also had a genetic component, which seemed particularly strong among Maori and other Pacific Islanders something clinicians should be aware of, she said.
"An awareness of this may hopefully help promote the message that effective modern drugs are available to prevent gout," said Gosling.
Gout is caused when uric acid in the blood crystallizes in the joints, causing them to become inflamed. Sufferers are advised to avoid consuming too much red meat, seafood and beer.