Cherries Have What Your Gout Needs

The concept of cherries as a natural cure for gout has been around for decades. In fact, the scientific research on cherries and gout actually dates back all the way to 1950 when a preliminary study found that daily cherry consumption helped to relieve gout attacks in a group of chronic gout sufferers. Dr. Ludwig W. Blau, a researcher in Texas who led the study, noted participants had lower levels of uric acid in their blood after eating cherries — gout, of course, is a condition triggered when excessive levels of uric acid build up in the blood.

Since then, extensive research has confirmed this link between cherries and gout, including a 2003 study conducted by the USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California, Davis. This time, researchers found that a group of women who consumed two servings (280 grams) of cherries after an overnight fast showed a 15 percent reduction in uric acid levels — and fewer markers for inflammation. This led UC Davis researchers to remark that “…compounds in cherries may inhibit inflammatory pathways” associated with gout.

The same study also found that consumption of cherry extract removed gout causing uric acid from the blood in as little as 5 hours. Researchers substituted other fruits, including grapes, strawberries and kiwi, but only cherry was able to produce this utterly amazing effect.

And that’s not all! A recent 2012 study from Boston University, that included 633 individuals with gout, found that intake of one serving — 10-12 cherries per day — over a 2-day period was associated with a 35% lower risk of gout attacks! These are some pretty fantastic odds for simply eating a few handfuls of fruit.

Cherries & Gout: The Antioxidant Connection

Everyone knows how delicious cherries can be and should be part of every gout diet, but as a super-fruit, cherries are an incredibly rich source of antioxidants, naturally occurring compounds that help to prevent free radical damage to our body’s cells and tissues.

Why is this important when you have gout? When free radical damage occurs in kidney tissue, it makes it harder for kidneys to do their job of filtering out toxins from the blood stream, including excessive uric acid; antioxidants can help undo this damage. Antioxidants can also provide soothing relief for gout pain due to their natural ability to disrupt the inflammatory process.

And this leads us to the “miracle” substance in cherries: Anthocyanins, the plant pigments that give cherries their dark, rich colors. Anthocyanins belong to a group of compounds called flavonoids; of the 150 identified types of flavonoids, anthocyanins are recognized as having the highest levels of antioxidants.

In a 2011 study, gout sufferers with elevated levels of blood uric acid saw their levels drop back within normal range after taking a single dose of concentrated anthocyanins. Numerous studies, including one led by researchers from Johns Hopkins, conclude that anthocyanins in tart cherries are highly effective in lowering inflammation. In fact, anthocyanins are routinely compared to ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen for their anti-inflammatory action.

The Best Cherry Sources for Anthocyanins

Regularly consuming one daily serving of cherries — whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, or in juice form — may be all you need to help with gout relief. But not all cherries or cherry products are created equal. Pay close attention to antioxidant levels.

Antioxidants are measured by a process called Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC; an ORAC score essentially tells you the antioxidant capacity of various foods. Nutritionists and dieticians recommend consuming between 3,000 and 5,000 ORAC units every day.  When applying this knowledge to cherries and gout relief, consider the following:

  • 3 ounces of Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate contains 12,800 units of ORAC
  • 1/4 cup of Dried Cherries contain roughly 3,000 units of ORAC
  • 1/2 cup of Frozen Cherries contains roughly 2,000 ORAC units.
  • 1 cup fresh cherries (Bing cherries, Rainier cherries): roughly 4,000 ORAC units.

Also think about which products will make it most convenient for you to include cherries in your diet. I started out drinking tart cherry juice, but the problem I had was that I was traveling all the time, so it was not practical for me to carry around a bottle of juice that needed to be refrigerated.  Same goes with whole cherries . . . they’re great when you can get them, but they are not always in season.

Frozen whole cherries are wonderful, but they don’t work if you have to be on the road all the time. However, when I am home, I keep frozen cherries stocked in the freezer  and add them in my morning smoothies several times a week.

Dried cherries can be an option if you’re on the go, but I’ve found that cherry extract pills may be the easiest way to make sure you are getting a concentrated dose of antioxidants. I’ve met lots of people who say ” a couple of cherry extract pills a day keeps the gout away!”

Bottom line is get your cherries in whatever form you can . . . whole fruit is better than juice, and juice is better than pills . . . but any form of cherry in your regular diet is better than none.

Life is a bowl of cherries, sure. But who would have thought that finding natural, permanent relief from gout attacks is too!

 + References

The Basics: Cherries Have What Your Gout Needs
Bert’s Thoughts: Eating Cherries for Gout Relief
The Details: Cherries and Gout