Eating cherries to lower the risk of gout attacks

Prior studies suggest that cherry products have urate-lowering effects and anti-inflammatory properties, with the potential to reduce gout pain.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine, in Massachusetts studied the relationship between cherry intake and the risk of recurrent gout attacks among people with gout.

First, the details.

  • 633 people with gout were followed for a year (age 54 years, 88% white, 78% male).
  • A cherry serving was a half-cup or 10 to 12 cherries.
  • They were asked about the following information when experiencing a gout attack:
    • Onset date of the gout attack
    • Symptoms and signs
    • Medications (including anti-gout medications)
    • Potential risk factors (including daily intake of cherries and cherry extract) during the 2 days before to the gout attack
  • The same exposure information was recorded over 2-day control periods.
  • The risk of recurrent gout attacks related to cherry intake was estimated.

And, the results.

  • Among those with some form of cherry intake, 35% ate fresh cherries, 2% ingested cherry extract, and 5% consumed both fresh cherry fruit and cherry extract.
  • There were 1,247 gout attacks during the one-year follow-up, with 92% occurring in the joint at the base of the big toe.
  • Cherry intake over a 2-days was associated with a 35% lower risk of gout attacks compared with no intake.
    • Cherry extract intake showed a similar association.
  • The gout flare risk continued to decrease with increasing cherry consumption, up to 3 servings over 2 days.
    • Additional cherry intake didn’t provide additional benefit.
  • The effect of cherry was not affected by potentially confounding factors: gender, obesity, purine intake, alcohol use, diuretic use, and use of anti-gout medications.
  • When cherry intake was combined with allopurinol (Zyloprim) use, the risk of gout attacks was 75% lower than without either treatment.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “These findings suggest that cherry intake is associated with a lower risk of gout attacks.”

This is an important study, but it doesn’t provide enough support for people to consider discontinuing their current treatment. In fact, the act of changing treatment is associated with increased risk of gouty attacks.

What’s needed now is a study with a tighter design such as a randomized double-blind study comparing cherries to placebo and possibly allopurinol.

A report of the benefits of eating cherries to help manage gout go back to 1950.

More recently, 10 healthy women who consumed Bing sweet cherries (280 grams) showed a significant decrease in blood levels of urate and a downward trend (not significant) in C-reactive protein (CRP) and nitric oxide (NO) concentrations, which are associated with inflammation.

9/30/12 12:23 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.