Cherries may challenge gout

Folk wisdom holds that gout sufferers can ward off painful attacks by eating lots of cherries or drinking cherry juice. A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism looked into the real-world application of this wisdom and found that people with gout were indeed less likely to have a flare-up if they were eating cherries or taking a cherry extract in the days prior to the attack.

Targeting the triggers

The study included 633 people with gout who had experienced at least one flare-up within the year prior to enrolling in the study. Questionnaires about their health, diet, and activities in the previous two days were filled out at the beginning of the study and every three months for one year while they were monitored for new gout attacks. If they experienced a gout attack during the study, they answered the same questions about the two days prior to the attack to determine what they had eaten, what supplements and medications they had taken, and what activities they had engaged in.

A few cherries each day may keep gout away

As expected, gout attacks were more likely when participants ate large amounts of meats, drank alcohol, or took diuretic medications. Regarding cherries, here’s what the researchers found:

• Eating cherries was associated with a 35% lower risk of having a gout attack; taking cherry extract was associated with a 45% risk reduction.
• Cherry’s protective effect increased with the amount eaten up to 1.5 cups, or 30 to 36 cherries, in two days. Eating more than that did not appear to further increase protection.
• People who ate cherries and took the anti-gout medication, allopurinol, had the lowest risk of a gout attack.
The study authors concluded “…study findings suggest that cherry intake is associated with a lower risk of gout attacks,” adding: “Should our findings be confirmed by randomized clinical trials, cherry products could provide a novel nonpharmacological preventive option against gout attacks.”

Treat yourself to cherries

If you suffer from recurrent gout attacks, this study provides preliminary evidence that including cherries in your regular diet might help prevent them. Here are other steps that may reduce your chance of a flare-up:

Watch purine intake. Purines are compounds found generally in high-protein foods. When broken down into uric acid in the body, it can get deposited in joints where it causes gouty inflammation and pain. If you have gout, staying away from poultry and meat (especially organ meats), seafood, and yeast might be helpful.
Limit alcohol  Having more than one alcoholic drink per day, particularly beer, can contribute to gout flare-ups.
Stick to water. Gout attacks can also be triggered by having too many soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or sugar.
Consider vitamin C. Several studies have shown that taking vitamin C can reduce blood levels of uric acid, suggesting that it might be helpful for gout prevention. Start with a small amount like 500 mg per day, since any sudden change in uric acid levels might trigger an attack.Reference: Arthritis Rheum 2012;doi: 10.1002/art.34677.  

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