Gout cases surge after ‘Deliveroo lifestyle’ during lockdown
It has long been painted as the disease of gluttonous kings.
But new figures suggest that overeating since the pandemic has fuelled the rise of gout - with a sharp rise in hospital admissions linked to the condition.
The statistics show the number of cases has risen by 20 per cent in just three years - with 234,000 people admitted to hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of gout in 2021/22.
The figures from NHS Digital follow a significant rise in obesity over the same period - with more than one in four adults now classed as obese.
Experts warn that much of the population became more sedentary during repeated lockdowns, with a heavier reliance on snacks and junk food while working from home.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said the figures were an indictment of successive governments who have presided over an ever fatter nation.
He said: “Forget Falstaff, Henry VIII and the rich Victorians who made gout infamous. Today's Elizabethans are eating and drinking them all under the table.”
Mr Fry also said many gout sufferers were getting too little help from the NHS for a condition which can cause excruciating pain.
Reliance on delivery meals
“Gout sufferers are miles from getting the treatment they need and their appalling care is little better than that delivered in the days of the Dark Ages,” he said.
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes sudden, severe joint pain.
It often starts in the big toe, but it can also affect other joints in the feet, hands, wrists, elbows or knees, and cause hot, swollen red skin.
It is one of the oldest known diseases known to mankind, with a history dating back to 2,500 BC when the Egyptians first identified it.
But experts said modern lifestyles - and in particular, a reliance on delivery meals, were causing a resurgence in the condition, which results from too much uric acid in the body.
Estimates suggest that between one and two people in 100 will suffer from gout, with risks increasing in middle age. Men are more likely than women to be sufferers, though the chance increases in women after the menopause.
Ordinarily, the kidneys work to expel uric acid. When they cannot, rising levels eventually lead to deposits of sodium urate crystals forming in and around the joints.
It’s these needle-like crystals that rub against the joints causing pain, swelling and often severe discomfort.
Typically, gout sufferers will notice stiffness and limited movement in their big toe as the first red flag of the condition.
Treatment involves anti-inflammatory drugs, with lifestyle changes - such as weight loss - also recommended.
The trends follow warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Britain will become the fattest nation in Europe within a decade thanks to a “Deliveroo culture” fuelled by lockdown habits.
The WHO said “alarming” trends that mean that almost four in 10 Britons will soon be obese.
Researchers said the growth of meal delivery apps - such as Deliveroo and Just Eat - during the pandemic was fuelling Britain’s record obesity rates, which will leave it topping the obesity league tables by 2033.
The use of fast-food delivery apps has spiralled since the pandemic, with a doubling in UK orders from Deliveroo in the six months since the first lockdown.
Health chiefs said the trends could see Britain top the obesity table even sooner, with takeaways typically containing twice the calories as supermarket equivalents.
Obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes increase the chance of gout, with risks much higher in those with a family history of the condition.
Bouts can be triggered by drinking alcohol, or foods that cause a build-up of uric acid, such as red meat, offal and seafood.
Earlier this year, research found women were much more likely than men to pile weight on during lockdown with “emotional eating” while stuck at home.
Scientists said the pandemic hit the sexes differently, with women’s diet deteriorating as they bore the brunt of “stressful” homeschooling and were more likely to be stuck at home.
Leicester University researchers analysed data on 938,000 adults to examine the impact of changes in Britain’s social habits since the first lockdown.
Overall, the pandemic led to 14 per cent of people at a healthy weight becoming overweight or obese, they found.
Latest published figures on adult obesity in England only track the first year of the pandemic.
They show 25.3 per cent of adults to be obese, compared with 23.6 per cent in 2018/19.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Helping more people reach a healthy weight is a top priority for the government and we are supporting families through schemes like Healthy Start. We will be bringing into force rules on the placement of less healthy products in stores and online in October and have introduced new calorie labelling in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways.
“We know being overweight or obese is the number one cause of ill health and disability in England, and the second biggest cause of cancer - which is why we will continue to support people achieve and maintain a healthier weight.”