The dietary causes of gout have been demystified by US scientists who have confirmed in the New England Journal of Medicine that a diet rich in meat and seafood are the main culprits for the age old (and often old age) condition.

Researchers have also dismissed conventionally held assumptions that vegetables high in purine - such as beans and peas - help cause the disease. However, they have concluded that eating low-fat dairy products may actually help protect consumers against gout.

The study was based on the health and nutritional records of more than 50,000 male health professionals, which have been tracked since 1986. Researchers meticulously analysed dietary information to find out what distinguished the men who did not develop gout from the 730 men who did by 1998.