Gout- Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid
Gout is a very painful rheumatic condition and afflicts an estimated 850 out of every 100,000 people or about 5% of all of the cases of arthritis. It has been suggested that a diet high in protein and purines can increase one’s risk of gout. Purines are typically found in the human body and many of the foods we eat every day. It is converted to uric acid under normal circumstances, however, uric acid can accumulate if too much is ingested or not enough is eliminated and can cause painful accumulation in the joints in the form of needle-like crystals.
An interesting twelve year study was performed to study the effects of diet and lifestyle on the prevalence of gout. This study was led by Dr. Hyon K. Choi and reported in March of 2004 in the The New England Journal of Medicine. The study entailed following 47,150 men who had no history of gout over a period of twelve years. A little over 700 of the men were afflicted with gout during the study, revealing that those who consumed a significant amount of seafood were 50% more likely to experience gout. Those who consumed the most meat in their diets had a 40% higher risk. Surprisingly, not all of the purine-rich foods resulted in gout. Some of those low risk foods were the vegetable-based proteins like mushrooms, spinach, peas, cauliflower and beans.
Other conclusions from the study included:
- Low-fat dairy foods actually decreased the incidence of gout
- A diet high in protein seemingly had no effect at all.
- There was a correlation between the diet linked to cardiovascular disease and the diet implicated in gout.
Based on these and other findings, the following were recommendations made by the Department of Orthopedics at the University of Washington.
- Alcohol can increase the risk of gout, so a moderate amount of alcohol (or none at all) is recommended.
- Drinking two to four liters of water per day can flush the uric acid from the system and alleviate the occurrence of kidney stones.
- It is well-known that obesity increases one’s risk of gout, but fasting or extreme dieting can also increase the risk. It is important to find a reasonable program to lose weight if you are obese.
While vegetable-based proteins do not increase one’s risk, meat and seafood-based proteins have been implicated, therefore it is wise to limit the following high-purine foods: sardines, mussels, smelts, sardines, anchovies, sweetbreads, chicken, beef, mutton, lamb, veal and pork.
Avoiding purine-rich foods is only one element of the treatment. It is important to see your doctor regularly and follow a healthy, balanced diet which includes plenty of water. Exercise is of utmost importance to maintain a healthy weight, and fasting and “crash” diets should be avoided as they can also cause uric acid to build up in the system. A balanced diet, as suggested by the American Heart Association includes mostly complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables, about 15% of protein (vegetable-based proteins such as legumes, beans and soy), and about 30% of healthy fats such as fish, avocado, and olive oil.