Rich food and an excess of alcohol are seen to be the traditional cause of gout in the past, however, this is now questionable as the number of older men and women suffering from gout today is on the increase.s
Is there another reason?
Perhaps there is. Science is now beginning to establish a link between gout and lead toxicity.
Gout affects the bones and joints of the body. Medical research has been looking deeper into the connection between toxic lead levels and gout. High levels of lead is a reason why the body is unable to excrete uric acid properly.
An acute form of arthritis, gout occurs when there are high levels of acid circulating in the blood, causing urate crystals to settle in the tissues of the joints. The high level of uric acid is due to one of two reasons: (1) the kidneys are damaged in some way and not capable enough in filtering the uric acid out of the blood or (2) the body is producing too much uric acid, and so it builds up in the bloodstream, the accumulation is known as hyperuricemia.
The Mayo Clinic defines gout as “characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness, and tenderness in joints, often the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout, a complex form of arthritis, can affect anyone. Men are more likely to get gout, but women become increasingly susceptible to gout after menopause. An acute attack of gout can wake you up in the middle of the night with the sensation that your big toe is on fire. The affected joint is hot, swollen and so tender that even the weight of the sheet on it may seem intolerable”.
Recent research suggests that lead absorption into the bones may be a primary cause of excess acid, or hyperuricemia, among middle-aged and elderly men, as well as postmenopausal women.
Impact of lead on the body
The effect of lead poisoning on the kidneys is the most direct. High levels of lead prevent the proper excretion of uric acid, resulting in painful gout attacks.
Lead poisoning has been linked to kidney damage and gout, as well as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, pre-senile dementia, and impaired cognitive ability.
Bone remodeling occurs when the bone releases calcium as part of the natural calcium turnover in the body. This natural metabolic process releases the stored lead, causing kidney damage, which in turn inhibits uric acid excretion. Then there is a subsequent buildup of uric acid in the blood, or hyperuricemia, causing gout.
When lead is reabsorbed, it causes lead poisoning in people not otherwise exposed to occupational levels of lead during their lifetime. In U.S. population surveys, the results showed that second only to young children, older adults are among the highest blood lead levels from non-occupational exposures. There is no safe level of lead.
95% of all lead is stored in the bone. The total lead content is reported to be up to 200 mg. in 60-70-year-old men, less in women. Lead is what toxicologists refer to as a “bone seeker.” It acts like calcium and becomes part of the bone structure. Your bones become filled with lead and, over time from low-level exposure, the accumulated lead reaches toxic levels.
In 1897, Australia was the first to recognize lead toxicity in paint and implemented precautions a few years later in 1914. France, Belgium, and Austria followed suit in 1909, and the League of Nations banned them in 1922. However, the laws to discontinue the use of lead paints in the United States were not passed until 1971 and not fully enforced until 1978.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, toxic metals are the second worst environmental problem. Lead is also found in pesticides, in addition to copper, arsenic and other metals.
Prevalence of lead
In 1965, Clair Patterson, a geochemist, proved that lead in human bodies had increased 100 times since the introduction of lead in gasoline. In 1980, the US National Academy of Sciences said that leaded gasoline was the greatest source of atmospheric lead pollution.
Lead was added to gasoline in the 1920s to make it more combustible. The residue of lead from the exhaust of automobiles remains in the soil today. Leaded gasoline has proven to be the most the most toxic source of lead poisoning, next to lead-based paints and lead plumbing in homes.
Lead pollution from gasoline has become part of the food chain. It is quickly taken into the human body through inhalation and absorption through the skin. It pollutes the air, soil, and water, all of which the food crops use to feed people and farm animals.
The blood lead levels of all Americans were reduced by 78 percent between 1978 and 1991 with the phasing out of leaded gasoline in the United States. The was a corresponding reduction of lead air pollution. The results were similar in countries around the world that phased out the use of leaded gasoline.
However, the story does not end there.
Toxic metal accumulation
As Dr. Lawrence Wilson of Prescott, Arizona explains: “In my experience, everyone has excess toxic metals, whether or not they show up on any test. Most often, they are hidden deep within the brain, the liver and in many other organs and tissues as well. Some toxic metals replace vital minerals in enzyme binding sites. However, the toxic metals do not function nearly as well. As they accumulate, they contribute to hundreds of physical and emotional health conditions.”
Testing for lead
Reliance on the results of simple blood tests for lead levels is a poor indication of the total body burden, and only reflects recent exposures. When blood levels are recorded, the results indicate how much lead is circulating within the blood stream, not the amount stored in the body.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), more than 3 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to lead in the workplace. One of the largest threats to children is lead paint in many homes, especially older ones; thus children in older housing with chipping paint or lead dust from moveable window frames with lead paint are at greater risk. Prevention of lead exposure can range from individual efforts, such as removing lead-containing items such as piping or blinds from the home.