Alexander the Great had it. Benjamin Franklin and Charles Darwin also suffered from what was once known as the "patrician malady." Their common affliction was gout, an arthritic condition that causes spells of intense pain, most often in the big toe.
Nutrition research now consolidates an ancient notion that a rich-man's diet, heavy in meat and seafood, contributes to the disease. Not all animal products are bad, however. Low-fat dairy foods offer protection, at least for men who haven't yet developed gout.
The disease's link to overconsumption of meat, as well as alcohol, has been assumed for centuries. Once found mainly in wealthy men, gout has spread along with the availability of meat. Today, gout affects about 5 million U.S. residents, mostly men and postmenopausal women.