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01 October 2012
According to Arthritis Australia around 70,000 people in Australia suffer from gout. As these figures indicate the image of the old English Lord with his foot elevated with a painful gouty big toe is a bit outdated. These days many people live a lifestyle that can result in gout and it ca be very painful. For all gout sufferers though, and those who want to avoid it, the good news is that gout prevention might come in the very tasty form of the cherry.
Gout occurs when small crystals form in and around the joint, causing inflammation, pain and swelling. These crystals are made of one of the body’s normal waste products, uric acid. Normally the body rids itself of extra uric acid through the kidneys into the urine. However this does not happen fast enough in people with gout. This causes uric acid levels to build up and the crystals to form. There two main groups of people commonly affected by gout are men between the ages of 40 and 50 years, and older people taking diuretics.
An attack of gout usually comes on very quickly, often overnight. The joint becomes very red, swollen and extremely painful. Often the joint is intensely sore to touch. Gout normally affects one joint at a time, often the joint of the big toe, but other joints, such as the hands, wrists, knees, ankles and elbows, can also be affected.
Gout does tend to run in families but not all family members will be affected. There are some lifestyle factors which may increase your risk of developing gout, and they are ones typically found in the lives of the British aristocracy during earlier times. These factors include drinking alcohol, dehydration (not drinking enough water), being overweight or overeating, and eating foods rich in purines that cause uric acid to be formed. These purine-rich foods include hearts, herring, mussels, yeast, and sardines. Foods moderately high in purines are anchovies, grouse, mutton, veal, bacon, liver, salmon, turkey, kidneys, partridge, trout, goose, haddock, pheasant, and scallops. No wonder Lord Huntingdon-Mucus IV had so much trouble with gout. With these foods and a sedentary lifestyle reaching the masses no wonder gout is more widely spread. Thank goodness cherries might be at hand to help.
In the new study researchers gathered 633 people with gout and followed them for a year. For the study one serving of cherries was classed as being half a cup or ten to twelve cherries. Over the course of the year of the study the researchers observed 1247 gout attacks. Analysis of when these attacks occurred and comparing that with cherry consumption showed that when subjects had eaten one serve of cherries for two days in a row their chance of having an attack dropped by 35 per cent. When they ate the cherries and were also taking the gout drug allopurinol the risk of gout flure ups fell by 75 per cent.
It seems that the antioxidant anthocyanins in cherries might inhibit the same enzymes that are targeted by common anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.
This finding does not come in isolation. In fact, the suggestion that cherries might assist with arthritis and gout has been around since the 1950s when daily cherry consumption (approximately 4.5 cups) was found to relieve gout attacks. That’s a lot of cherries though and half a cup is far more achievable for gout sufferers.
So while the democratisation of gout is not one of the better outcomes of the social revolution at least cherries are a pithy response to the growing problem.