Why Do Cherries Reduce Gout Attack Risk?
You’ve probably heard all of the rumors about cherries reducing the risk of gout attacks. Maybe you’ve even tried it.
It didn’t work for you?
You might have been eating the wrong type of cherries or going about it the wrong way, such as drinking sweetened cherry juice from the grocery store.
A study released that followed 600 gout patients who ate a single 1/2 cup serving of cherries per day or consumed cherry extract had a 35% reduction in the risk of a gout attack. Those in the group who ate more than that per day had an even lower risk of an attack.
Recent studies heavily suggest that sugar consumption, particularly fructose and fruit juice consumption, play a large role in the onset of gout flare-ups and symptoms. But, if you’ve tried cherries in the past and they didn’t seem to help, what kind were you eating?
Tart Cherries Are The Way
Sweet cherries don’t work for gout like tart cherries do. Tart cherries are lower in sugar than sweet cherries and also contain more of the beneficial compounds, such as anthocyanins.
Sweet cherry varieties are those such as Bing, Rainier, and Lambert; they are mainly grown in Washington state within the US. They are the ones you will usually find in your local supermarket.
Tart cherries are Montmorency and Balaton and those are produced primarily in Michigan.
Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Action
Anthocyanins are flavonoid compounds that are found in plants that can give them a red, blue, or purple color depending on their pH level. They have been linked to better vision, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced risk of cancer, and can be beneficial in age-related neurodegenerative disorders.
The active compound in tart cherries appears to be cyanidin, specifically cyanidin-3-glucosylrutinoside 1 and cyanidin-3-rutinoside 2.
The antioxidant activity of anthocyanins from cherries was comparable to commercial antioxidants, tert-butylhydroquinone, butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole, and superior to vitamin E, at a test concentration of 125 microg/ml. — Source
Cox 1 & Cox 2 enzymes are inhibited by NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, which are taken by many people who have gout symptoms. Cox 2 is what signals the pain and inflammation that are related to gout symptoms. The anthocyanins found in cherries also inhibit these enzymes and while most drugs that are known to block Cox 2 can be linked to a variety of side effects, cherries as a whole are not.
Cherries have been found to be able to block both Cox 1 and Cox 2 enzymes, but research has shown that the flavonoids can protect against the stomach lining damage that can be caused by Cox-1 inhibitors. The potential side effects of blocking cox-1 are reduced, making tart cherries specifically a better option than OTC NSAIDs. Research has shown that tart cherry juice also helps with other aches and pains, as well.
The Fructose - Uric Acid Link
If you want to know the big deal about fructose, I’ll tell you: fructose is the only type of sugar that will spike your uric acid. It can create uric acid within minutes of ingesting it; this is why sodas tend to be so bad. They are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
Having any of the conditions that can be associated with high sugar consumption, such as diabetes and obesity, are also associated with increased risk of gout.
A uric acid test can be used to test for fructose toxicity.
Past studies have seen that after not eating anything overnight, two servings of cherries lead to a 15% reduction in uric acid. Drinking tart cherry juice or taking doses of cherry extract for a few weeks can also lower the levels of uric acid in your body and help prevent attacks.
Don't Overdo It
Whatever you do, don’t get complacent about eating cherries. In this case, more is not better. While the tart cherries do contain less sugar than the sweet cherries, you still can’t eat a bucket of them a day. You’ll do more harm eating them in that quantity than you will do any good.
Don't Misunderstand: Cherry Juice
Because cherry juice is, well, just juice, it doesn’t contain your fiber needs that whole cherries do. Where sugar occurs in nature, there is always a good bit of fiber present. Have you ever tried chewing on a sugar cane?
Drinking too much cherry juice can exacerbate the problem and make your gout symptoms worse, especially if the only thing you’ve found was sweetened cherry juice at your local grocery store. Drinking too much of any kind of juice can also cause diarrhea, which isn’t on anybody’s to-do list.
If you want to drink cherry juice concentrate, do so in moderation and make sure that what you are buying is, in fact, just cherry juice.
Don’t Be Misled
Read the label of the products you look at carefully, since some manufacturers will often label their products “100% Black Cherry Concentrate” (or something similar), but will mix in other concentrates to make it less expensive to produce. They will include things such as apple, grape, pomegranate, black currant, etc concentrates. Even though these aren’t bad for you and do contain anthocyanins, the product packaging has been misleading. If they’ll lie to you on the label, what else will they lie about?
One of the very best things you can do for your body in general is drink plenty of water every day. Doing that keeps your body busy flushing out uric acid. If possible, drinking filtered water is best.
Limit Fructose In The Diet
If you want to get a handle on your gout, limit your fructose. That means having to limit any foods that contain fructose, including high fructose corn syrup, which are found in everything from breads to frozen goods.
Cherries can be beneficial in reducing the amount of uric acid in your body, but they can be bad if improperly used. Be careful!