Gout got you down? Like a railroad-spike-through-the-knee kind of down?
Tart cherries to the rescue!
By Gina Andreucci
A study recently released by Boston University School of Medicine links our favorite cherries with a reduction in gout attacks—between 35 and 75 percent! The study is one of the first to scientifically examine the effects of cherry consumption with the recurrence of gout attacks, although many arthritic patients are well aware of the benefits of cherries for their pain and inflammation.
What is Gout?
Gout is a kind of arthritis characterized by painful joint inflammation, particularly in the big toe, knees and ankles that is due to an excess of uric acid in the blood. It is both an acute and chronic affliction of which the exact cause is unknown. Gout may be genetic and is more commonly found in men, post-menopausal women, and heavy alcohol drinkers.
8.3 million sufferers in the US would all agree: gout is the pits.
A gout attack is extremely painful and may last up to several days, and subsequent attacks may last longer. Treatment of a gout attack may include anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers or corticosteroids to reduce pain and inflammation. Chronic gout sufferers may be prescribed allopurinol, a daily medication designed to keep uric acid levels in the body low.
During the study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, 633 individuals with gout were followed for one year. Patients provided information on symptoms, onset, risk factors, and whether or not they ate fresh cherries or took cherry extract during the year. Researchers gathered information for 1,247 gout attacks – roughly two per patient.
What they discovered was that the participants that ate cherries for two days were 35% less likely to suffer a gout attack than those who did not consume cherries. Participants who reported that they ate cherries in addition to taking their allopurinol medication were 75% less likely to experience an attack.
But what is the magic number for cherries? The study found that three servings (30-36 cherries) over two days proved the most beneficial.
Tart cherries are excellent for anti-inflammation, and high levels of antioxidant compounds found in cherries as well as vitamin C are two components that scientists believe may contribute to the reduction in gout flares. Arthritis Research UK professor Alan Silman admits “Eating cherries, in fact, is not dissimilar to taking ibuprofen on a daily basis.”
The study does not recommend patients abandon standard medical treatment for gout or arthritis, but scientists look forward to future studies to confirm the power of cherries.
"Cherry Consumption and the Risk of Recurrent Gout Attacks"; Yuqing Zhang, Tuhina Neogi, Clara Chen, Christine Chaisson, David Hunter, Hyon K. Choi; Arthritis & Rheumatism, anticipated online publication 28 September 2012; DOI: 10.1002/art.34677; Additional sources: Wiley-Blackwell, Arthritis Research UK.