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Can a vegetarian diet protect you from gout?

Can a vegetarian diet protect you from gout?

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Discover the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Your diet and gout

Purine-rich foods may increase the level of uric acid in the blood, causing gout in some men. High purine intake is associated with an increased risk of gout. Purines are found in both plant and animal foods, but are particularly high in meats, organ meats, meat extracts and seafood. Avoidance of these triggers may be a helpful strategy in the management and prevention of gout. Developing a better understanding of the foods that are most likely to trigger gout can help sufferers make informed decisions about the best foods to include and avoid in their diet.

The research

Research reported in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases explored the relationship between purine intake and the risk of recurrent gout attacks among gout sufferers. People with the highest purine intake over a 2-day period saw an increase in the risk of recurrent gout attacks by almost five times compared with people who had the lowest purine intake. This dose responsive relationship occurred independently of other known risk factors for gout, such as gender and alcohol consumption. Of further interest was the fact that the impact of purine from plant sources on the risk of gout attacks was substantially smaller than that from animal purine sources.

The study authors also referred to additional research which discovered that over the long-term, habitual consumption of purine-rich vegetables was not associated with an increased risk of gout. In fact, that study found subjects who ate the most vegetable proteins experienced a 27% reduced risk of gout compared with subjects who ate the least vegetable proteins. It’s possible that other healthy ingredients in vegetables, such as fibre, antioxidants and healthy fats, contributed to these benefits.

The vegetarian diet and gout

Switching to a plant based diet may have considerable benefits for gout sufferers. Replacing animal proteins with plant proteins (especially, nuts and legumes) can potentially reduce your risk of gout, and has a range of other potent health benefits. Plant food proteins also provide a rich source of fibre, vitamins and minerals, which may help with weight management and cardiovascular health (both key health issues for men). Consider the following suggestions to boost your intake of plant based foods.

  • Cut back on meats – Reduce your intake of meats, organ meats, meat extracts and seafood, which are rich in animal purines.
  • Get your protein from plant sources – Foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes and tofu are high in protein, and are a good alternative to animal proteins for gout sufferers.
  • Eat more vegetables – Include plenty of vegetables in your diet to fill in the gap left by cutting back on meat. This also boosts your intake of fibre and antioxidants. Even high purine vegetables such as spinach, asparagus and mushrooms have been shown to have minimal impact on gout.
  • Experiment with your diet – Why not try a vegetarian diet for 2-4 weeks to see what impact it has on your gout symptoms. Depending on the results, you may wish to adopt a vegetarian diet on a more permanent basis, or try for set nights of the week when you cut out meat (such as meatless Mondays).

References available on request

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I was diagnosed with gout two years ago, and I have been quite diligent about staying away from known high-purine, no-no foods. I'm not a big fish eater, so chicken has turned into my primary protein source. (I've read mixed things about soy and gout, so I've not done too much tofu). Given the restriction, I've been pondering whether going full-on vegetarian is the way to go. I did a search online and came across this piece. Thanks for sharing this information.

Cheers!
Matthew
Hi Faisal,
Thanks for your post.
It’s great to hear that you have seen such an improvement in your gout symptoms since changing your diet.
If you are really wanting to re-introduce some meat into your diet – you might be able to, but if you’re finding that there is an immediate reaction from your body - you may benefit from seeking some support from a naturopath, or integrative doctor in private practice.
All the best,
Charmaine
Charmaine
Charmaine 29 Sep 2014
I had gout 1 year ago. I further suffered from mini gout flares within first month and then switched to Vegetarian diet. Two exceptions to the rule are 1)low fat cow's milk and 2)fish oil. I have been gout free since then. Each time I try to introduce meat to my diet I start sensing gout coming (some itchiness in the toe and foot area). I am happy being Vegetarian but occasionally miss steaks.
Anonymous
Anonymous 29 Sep 2014