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Why Was There A Gout Epidemic In 18th-Century Britain?

Updated 21 Oct 2019 5.7k views11 items

In the 18th century, Britain experienced a gout epidemic so bad that it changed the course of history. Known as the "disease of kings," gout skyrocketed in the 18th century for one major reason: Britain's wealthy were indulging in new luxuries that contributed to the disease.

What causes gout? Diet plays a major role in the painful joint disorder. In particular, the foods favored by 18th century aristocrats caused gout, including alcohol, sweets, and meat. The gout epidemic was further exacerbated by two major factors: importing lead-tainted wine from Portugal and increasing their sugar consumption five fold in the century.

Somehow, Britain's nobility convinced everyone that gout was a classy disease. They called it an aphrodisiac and claimed gout prevented worse maladies. But the "gout wave" in the 18th century also helped Britain lose its hold on the American colonies.

PopularDiseases / Medical ConditionsGoutHistoryBritishWeird History18th CenturyDisease Outbreaks