Research at the MGH is interwoven throughout more than 30 departments, centers and units, and is conducted with the support and guidance of the MGH Research Institute. The Research Roundup is a monthly series highlighting studies, news and events.

DASH diet may prevent gout

A recent study suggests that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet may reduce the risk of gout, a painful type of inflammatory arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in joints.

The study enrolled more than 44,000 men with no history of gout. The research team applied two scoring systems to the dietary patterns of participants:

1) A DASH dietary pattern score based on the criteria for the diet, which emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts while discouraging red meat and fatty, processed foods. Several studies have confirmed the DASH diet’s ability to reduce risks for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

2) A Western dietary pattern score based on high intake of red and processed meats, french fries, refined grains, sweets and desserts.

During 26 years of follow up, 1,731 participants were newly diagnosed with gout. A higher DASH dietary pattern score was associated with a lower risk for gout, while a higher western dietary pattern score was associated with an increased risk for gout.

While these findings need to be confirmed in future interventions, researchers note that many individuals at risk for gout because of elevated uric acid levels might already be candidates for the DASH diet, since more than half of such individuals also have hypertension.

Hyon Choi, MD, director of the Gout and Crystal Arthropathy Center in the MGH Division of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Immunology, is senior author of the study.


Researchers detect “silent” seizures in Alzheimer’s patients

New research suggests a potential new connection between the devastating memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and “silent” seizures in the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain.

The small study enrolled two female patients in their 60s with early Alzheimer’s and no known history of seizures. Electrodes were placed on the scalp and surgically implanted on both sides of the brain to better detect seizure activity. Each patients’ brain activity was monitored for 24 to 72 hours.

The implanted electrodes recorded evidence of seizures in the hippocampuses of both patients. Most notably, these seizures primarily occurred when patients were asleep, a critical time for memory consolidation.

“Our novel finding that networks involved in memory function can become silently epileptic could lead to opportunities to target that dysfunction with new or existing drugs to reduce symptoms or potentially alter the course of the disease,” says Andrew Cole, MD, director of the MGH Epilepsy Service and senior author of the study.   

A recent study led by Alice Lam, MD, PhD, also of the MGH Epilepsy Service and lead author of the current study, demonstrated a novel tool for detecting hippocampal seizures not detectible by scalp electrodes in patients with epilepsy. Cole and his team are working to refine this tool and apply it to Alzheimer’s. 

Due to the small size of the study, further research also is needed to validate the results with a broader population. 

Read more articles from the 06/23/17 Hotline issue.