We’ve all heard the axiom “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
It looks like we may need to change that to include cherries, especially when it comes to dealing with chronic pain from gout. According to a new study, patients who ate the fruit over a two day period lowered their risk of a gout attack by 35 percent.
The findings, published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology, also suggest that the risk of gout flares was 75 percent lower when cherry intake was combined with the uric-acid reducing drug, allopurinol.
More than 8 million Americans suffer from gout, an inflammatory arthritis triggered by a crystallization of uric acid within the joints that causes excruciating pain and swelling. One of the most common symptoms of gout is waking up at night feeling like your big toe is on fire. Gout attacks can also include swelling, redness, intense pain, and tenderness that can radiate to the ankle, foot, and knees. Gout attacks can last from several days to weeks, and each subsequent attack becomes more painful.
Researchers at Boston University followed 633 gout patients over the course of a year. Participants were asked about their symptoms, medications and their consumption of cherries in the two days before their gout attacks
“Our findings indicate that consuming cherries or cherry extract lowers the risk of gout attack,” said lead author Dr. Yuqing Zhang, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Boston University. “The gout flare risk continued to decrease with increasing cherry consumption, up to three servings over two days.”
A cherry serving was one half cup or 10 to 12 cherries. The authors found that further cherry intake did not provide any additional benefit. However, the protective effect of cherries persisted after taking into account factors such as a patients’ sex, body mass, along with use of alcohol, diuretics and anti-gout medications.
While prior studies suggest that cherry products have urate-lowering effects and anti-inflammatory properties, researchers say this is the first study to assess whether cherry consumption could lower the risk of gout attacks. A recent study also found that tout cherries relieves joint pain from osteoarthritis.
In an editorial, also published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dr. Allan Gelber of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Dr. Daniel Solomon of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University Medical School said the cherry study was important for its focus on dietary intake and risk of recurrent gout attacks. Though the findings were promising, both Gelber and Solomon advised patients not to abandon standard therapies for gout.