Cherries, uric acid, and gout attacks
A painful gout attack occurs when excess uric acid in the body forms crystals that collect in one or more joints, causing inflammation. Cherries have been shown to lower the levels of uric acid in the body and therefore might lower the risk of a gout attack.
For example, one large online survey3 asked people with gout to report their experiences over the course of one year. People answered questions about their intake of cherries and cherry extract, alcohol, and certain foods and medications in the two days leading up to a gout attack.
The survey results found:
- People who ate cherries or supplemented with cherry extract were 37% less likely to report gout attacks than people who had no cherry intake.
- People who ate cherries or supplemented with cherry extract and also took allopurinol, a drug prescribed to reduce urate in the blood, were 75% less likely to report gout attacks than people who did neither.
For this study, researchers defined one serving of cherries as ½ cup, or about 10 to 12 cherries. More than 3 servings did not seem to provide additional benefits.
How cherries may help prevent gout
Scientists know that cherries contain high levels of antioxidants, including anthocyanins and quercetin, as well as other nutrients. It is unclear how these nutrients may work individually or together to lower urate levels and decreases the chance of a gout attack.
Some researchers2 theorize that cherries:
- Have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce the painful inflammation related to gout attacks
- May help counteract the process that leads to changes in bones in gout-affected joints
- Reduce oxidative stress (excess free radicals in the body), which is associated with gout
Experts suspect that oxidative stress in the body begins a biochemical cascade that promotes inflammation, which over time leads to gout and other degenerative diseases.
More research—particularly large studies involving human subjects—is needed to find out exactly if and how cherries prevent gout attacks.
See Gout Prevention
Adding cherries to your diet
If you have been diagnosed with gout and are considering incorporating cherries into your regular diet, you can try:
- Fresh or frozen tart cherries. Choose tart cherry varieties like Montorency or Balaton—they contain more anthocyanin antioxidants than sweet cherries (such as Bing cherries).
- Cherry juice. Look for 100% unsweetened tart cherry juice.
- Cherry extract. Liquid, tablet, and powder forms of cherry extract are sold over the counter. Avoid products that contain additives or added sugars.
Recommended serving sizes are uncertain. Some studies recommend ½ cup of fresh cherries or 1 cup of unsweetened cherry juice per day. Supplements containing extract typically have suggested servings on the labels.
Products such as cherry brandy, pie filling, or syrup contain added alcohol and/or sugar and are not recommended to prevent gout and may actually increase the risk of a gout attack.
Because there are no definitive guidelines regarding the use of cherries to prevent gout, it’s up to individuals and their doctors to decide serving sizes and how to measure effectiveness.
A proven way to lower uric acid in the bloodstream is to avoid purine-rich foods.