Cherries in Basket

A Simple Fruit Could Help Eliminate Gout Attacks

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Cherries in BasketGout is an arthritic condition that occurs when there is a buildup of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product created during the breakdown of purine — a compound naturally found in every cell in the body and in many foods, particularly red meat, organ meats like kidney and liver, and certain seafood like sardines, herring, anchovies, mussels and mackerel.

Normally, the body eliminates uric acid through urine, but in those suffering from gout, the body either produces too much of this substance or is unable to excrete it properly. The excess acid combines with other minerals to form hard, sharp crystals in the joints — most commonly the big toe, although any joint is susceptible. Symptoms of gout include swelling, intense pain, tenderness and/or redness in the affected area.

Doctors can prescribe medication to treat gout, but these drugs come with side effects. For this reason, many gout patients seek out natural treatment and prevention measures before relying on prescription drugs.

Eliminating high-purine foods from the diet, as well as other substances that interfere with the body’s ability to break down or eliminate uric acid, like caffeine, sugar, yeast, salt and alcohol, go a long way in preventing gout attacks. Losing weight can also help, since gout attacks have been linked to increased weight.

Unfortunately, though, even with taking all the preventive measures possible, gout sufferers know all too well that attacks will inevitably happen from time to time. The good news is that a simple little fruit can help reduce the risk of gout attacks.

A ‘Cherry’ Effective Solution

The realization that cherries could lower uric acid levels and alleviate gout actually came about in the early 1950s.[1] Since then, further research has been conducted to examine how gout responds to the consumption of cherries or cherry products, with promising results.[2]

In another study out of Boston University, researchers analyzed 633 gout patients, with an average age of 54, who completed in-depth food and lifestyle questionnaires.[3] Of these participants, 224 reported eating fresh cherries, 15 took cherry extract, and 33 used both.

The researchers discovered that the intake of fresh cherries over a two-day period was associated with a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks compared with no cherry intake. They also found that the risk of gout attacks tended to decrease with higher consumption — up to three servings over two days — but anything over those three servings did not appear to provide better protection. (In this case, a serving of cherries equaled about 1/2 cup, or 10-12 cherries.)

The cherry extract had an even greater protective effect — a 45 percent lower risk of gout attacks. And the intake of both fresh cherries and the extract combined reduced the risk of gout attacks by 37 percent.

Interestingly, the effect of cherry intake on the risk of gout attacks tended to be stronger when consumed during periods when the participants had higher purine intake, were abstaining from alcohol, and when diuretics or NSAIDs were not used. And perhaps most notably, when participants consumed cherries in addition to taking allopurinol (one of the most common gout medications), the reduction in risk of gout attacks jumped up to an astounding 75 percent.

While researchers are not 100 percent sure what it is about cherries that’s so helpful in reducing gout attacks, they suspect it’s the high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins. In addition, cherries are an excellent source of vitamin C and many flavonoids. Higher intakes of vitamin C can lower uric acid concentrations substantially.[4]

Eat Those Cherries

If you suffer from gout, cherries could be a safe, effective — not to mention delicious — way to prevent attacks. Why not start adding a serving or two of cherries to your diet to see what kind of effect it has on your gout? If fresh cherries aren’t available, try frozen. (Remember, a serving equals about 10-12 cherries, so the expense isn’t too extreme.)

If you don’t like cherries or prefer to use supplements, then try cherry extract. You can find cherry extract in most health food stores and vitamin retailers.

[1] Blau LW. Cherry diet control for gout and arthritis. Tex Rep Biol Med. 1950;8(3):309-11.

[2] Jacob RA et al. Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women. J Nutr. 2003 Jun;133(6):1826-9.

[3] Zhang Y et al. Cherry consumption and the risk of recuurent gout attacks. Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Sep 28. doi: 10.1002/art.34677.

[4] Huang HY et al. The effects of vitamin C supplementation on serum concentrations of uric acid: results of a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;52:1843-7.

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