If you are one of the estimated 8.3 million Americans who suffer from gout, you might consider stocking up on cherries.
A study published Friday morning in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), followed 633 gout suffers for a year, having them record information about their gout attacks via online questionnaire. They were asked to note, among other things, the date their attacks began, the medications they were taking and whether they’d eaten cherries or consumed cherry extract during the two days before the attack. The subjects served as their own controls, answering those same questions for two-day periods that didn’t precede gout attacks.
Those who reported eating a ½-cup serving of cherries a day (about 10 or 12 cherries) were 35 percent less likely to have a subsequent attack than those who did not eat cherries. The same held true for those who consumed cherry extract. And the risk of gout attack decreased as cherry consumption (fruit or extract) increased, though that only held true for consumption of up to three servings over two days; beyond that, the degree of risk reduction remained stable.
People who consumed cherries and also took the uric-acid-reducing medication allopurinol had 75 percent less risk of gout attack.
Gout is an increasingly common and horribly painful form of arthritis. It occurs when the body produces too much uric acid, which collects and crystallizes in the joints, causing inflammation and pain.
Men are more likely to have gout than women, though women’s risk increases after menopause. Other risk factors include uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heavy alcohol use, use of diuretics and a family history of gout.
Gout is typically treated, though not always entirely successfully, with drugs such as allopurinol, a compound called colchicine, corticosteroids and NSAIDs. But these medications can have side effects, some of them quite serious, and may also interfere with medications for other conditions.
The medical community has long been interested in how diet and other lifestyle factors might influence gout risk. Cherries have been singled out in earlier research as having potentially beneficial effects on gout attack risk, though nobody’s quite sure what it is about cherries that might make them beneficial to gout sufferers. It’s thought that perhaps their anti-inflammatory qualities (due in part to their high anthocyanin content) might combat gout-related inflammation, or they may somehow alter the amount of uric acid in the bloodstream, the study notes.
The study and an accompanying editorial emphasize that more research, including randomized controlled trials, into cherries’ effect on gout is required.