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Cherries may reduce risk of gout attacks

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Certain diet and lifestyle changes may help if you suffer from gout, a type of painful arthritis that occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood and causes joint inflammation. A new study suggests that adding cherries to the daily diet can significantly help reduce the incidence of gout flares.

Dr. Yuqing Zhang, a professor of medicine and public health at Boston University, recruited 633 gout patients who were followed for one year. Participants were asked to report about the date of their first gout attack, symptoms, medications and risk factors. The volunteers were asked about diet, specifically their intake of cherries, which have urate-lowering effects (reducing the body’s production of uric acid) and anti-inflammatory properties.

Those who consumed the fruit – a serving size is one half cup, or 10 to 12 cherries – had a 35% lower risk of gout attacks. When combined with the uric acid-reducing drug allopurinol, the cherry eaters had a 75% lower risk of flares.

"Our findings indicate that consuming cherries or cherry extract lowers the risk of gout attack," said Dr. Zhang. "The gout flare risk continued to decrease with increasing cherry consumption, up to three servings over two days."

About 8.3 million American adults suffer with gout. The exact cause is unknown, but it tends to be more common in men, post-menopausal women, and those who drink alcohol or take certain medications. The condition may also develop in people with diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, anemia, and blood cancer.

Although diet can play a big role in helping to reduce recurrent gout attacks, Dr. Allan Gelber from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Dr. Daniel Solomon from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University Medical School remind gout patients that they should not abandon medication in favor of solely eating cherries or any other dietary intervention. As seen in the study, the combination of a healthful diet and anti-gout drugs greatly improve symptom occurrence.

Among the diet and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the incidence of gout attacks include following a lowered-purine diet by avoiding such foods as anchovies, sardines, oils, herring, organ meat (liver, kidney, and sweetbreads), legumes (dried beans and peas), gravies, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, consommé, and baking or brewer's yeast. Avoiding fatty foods may also help.

Weight loss may also reduce the incidence of gout attacks, but be sure to eat enough calories to only lose weight at the recommended rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week. Rapid weight loss can cause uric acid kidneys stones to form.

Journal References:

Zhang Y, et al "Cherry consumption and the risk of recurrent gout attacks" Arthritis Rheum 2012; DOI: 10.1002/art.34677.

Gelber A, Solomon D "If life serves up a bowl of cherries, and gout attacks are 'the pits' -- Implications for therapy" Arthritis Rheum 2012; DOI: 10.1002/art.34676.

Additional Resource:

PubMed Health – US National Library of Medicine

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