Gout is a very painful form of inflammatory arthritis that is caused by an abnormally high amount of uric acid in the blood. Recent observations indicate that the consumption of cherries would exert a preventive action against this disease.
As early as the 5th century BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates observed that people who regularly ate hearty, well-watered meals were often struck down by severe joint pain, especially in the big toe.
Gout attack: when crystals settle in the joints
This affection, which we know today under the name of gout, has also long been considered a “disease of kings”, because the abundance of food which favored its outbreak was a privilege exclusively reserved for the upper social classes.
This link between diet and gout is due to the presence of purines, a group of molecules found in several commonly eaten foods.
(red meat and seafood, in particular) as well as in several alcoholic beverages (beer, whiskey, rum and gin). During digestion, these molecules are broken down into uric acid, a poorly soluble metabolic waste product which is normally eliminated by the kidneys; when the amount of purines is too high, the excess uric acid in the blood forms crystals which are deposited in the joints, which causes an inflammatory reaction and the appearance of very sharp pains.
The incidence of gout has increased dramatically in recent years in several parts of the world. For example, a recent study from New Zealand indicates that in just 10 years (1999-2009), hospital admissions for gout complications increased by 90% and that a significant proportion of these patients had diabetes, hypertension or kidney failure that could have serious health consequences.
It is suspected that the major changes in the dietary habits of the population during this period, as well as the increase in overweight and obesity, both play an important role in this increase in incidence. The high consumption of sugar (sucrose-fructose), in the form of soft drinks for example, is certainly to blame, since the metabolism of fructose leads to the production of uric acid. The excess calories associated with the abundant consumption of sugary foods, meanwhile, promotes overweight and makes the body less sensitive to the action of insulin. This insulin resistance interferes with the excretion of uric acid by the kidneys and thereby increases its blood level and the risk of gout. Gout is therefore not only a disease associated with purine-rich foods and excessive alcohol consumption, but also a consequence of the metabolic upheavals that are associated with excess sugar and calories.
Anthocyanins and seizures diminish
Cherries are one of the fruits that contain the highest amounts of anthocyanins, molecules with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. Researchers examined the correlation between cherry consumption and the frequency of gout episodes in 633 people with the disease. They observed that people who ate cherries two days before they were most likely to have a gout attack were 35% less likely to have the attack than when they didn’t. . When combined with allopurinol, a drug commonly used to reduce uric acid levels, the protective effect of cherries even reaches 75%!
Gout is therefore another example of a disease whose development is strongly influenced by our lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding excessive sugar consumption as much as possible and favoring a diet rich in plants, including cherries, is therefore a good way to avoid the torment imposed by this disease.
Robinson PC et al. Hospital admissions associated with gout and their co-morbidities in New Zealand and England 1999-2009. Rheumatology,
Zhang Y et al. Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks. Arthritis Rheum. ; 64: 4004-11