Cherries may no longer be for just topping off ice cream sundaes; in a new study of people with gout, eating the fruit was linked with a 35 percent to 75 percent lower risk of having an attack.
While adopting a cherry regimen sounds pleasant enough, the study’s lead author warns that the new study does not prove cherries prevent gout attacks, and he said patients should stick with their current gout medications.
“They can go out and eat the cherries, but they shouldn’t abandon their medical treatment at all,” said Yuqing Zhang, a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Gout arises when uric acid crystals build up in the joints. The body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines – substances found naturally in the body, but also in certain foods, like organ meats, anchovies, mushrooms and some seafood.
Anything that boosts the production of uric acid, or slows its clearance, also raises the risk of gout. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease are some examples.
Doctors have reported that some patients recommend cherries to prevent gout attacks, but the connection has only been studied a few times before, according to Zhang.
His group’s preliminary investigation, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, is just the first step in understanding the link between eating cherries and gout risk, he told Reuters Health.
For their study, Zhang and his colleagues recruited gout patients over the Internet to take online surveys about their attacks.
All the participants had had a gout attack in the last 12 months, had been diagnosed with gout by a doctor, lived in the U.S. and were at least 18 years old. They also had to release their medical records to the researchers.
For the next year, the gout patients filled out surveys every time they had an attack.
The survey asked questions about the symptoms, the drugs used to treat the attack and about certain risk factors, including what they had eaten.