A Cherry On Top for Gout Patients

Gout flare risk reduced in patients who ate cherry products

(RxWiki News) The pain of gout comes in episodes. That is, patients go through periods of intense pain that come and go. Now, it seems eating cherries may help prevent these gout attacks.

Gout patients who ate cherries for two days had a lower risk of gout attacks compared to those who did not eat cherries, according to a recent study.

"Be careful what you eat if you have gout."

The team of researchers - led by Yuqing Zhang, ScD, of Boston University - also found that cherry extract may lower the risk of gout attacks.

Millions of Americans are affected by gout - a type of inflammatory arthritis that occurs when crystals of uric acid form within the joints, leading to intense pain and swelling. Even though patients have many treatment options, painful gout attacks are still a serious problem.

Past studies have found that cherry products may lower uric acid levels and fight inflammation. As such, cherries may reduce gout pain. But no study has looked at whether eating cherries could lower the risk of gout attacks.

From their study, Dr. Zhang and colleagues found that eating cherries over a two-day period lowered the risk of gout attacks by 35 percent. Taking cherry extract led to a similar reduction in risk of gout attacks.

Patients who ate cherries and took the gout drug allopurinol (sold as Aloprim and Zyloprim) had a 75 percent lower risk of gout attacks.

According to Dr. Zhang, the more cherry products that patients ate, the more their risk of gout attacks was reduced. However, risk-lowering powers of cherries seemed to work only up to three servings over two days.

Beyond three servings, cherry intake did not seem to provide any extra benefit.

"Our findings indicate that consuming cherries or cherry extract lowers the risk of gout attack," said Dr. Zhang.

In an editorial article, Allan Gelber, MD, PhD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Daniel Solomon, MD, MPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital said that the study by Dr. Zhang and colleagues is important because it looked at the relationship between dietary intake and the risk of gout attacks. However, they also warned patients not to take these findings too far. Gout patients should not abandon their standard treatments, they said.

According to both the editorial and the study's authors, more research is needed to confirm that eating cherry products can prevent gout attacks. Specifically, more randomized clinical trials are needed.

For their research, Dr. Zhang and colleagues studied 633 gout patients for one year. Patients were asked for information about their gout attacks, including the starting date of the gout attack, signs and symptoms, medications and possible risk factors - which included intake of cherry products during the two days before the gout attack.

The study - which was funded by the Arthritis Foundation and the American College of Rheumatology - was published September 28 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

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Review Date: 
October 3, 2012
Last Updated:
October 4, 2012