A team of researchers led by Dr Yuging Zhang, professor of medicine and public health at Boston University, found that consuming cherries over a two-day period resulted in a 35 per cent fall in the risk of gout attacks.
The research also suggested that the threat of gout flares declined by as much as 75 per cent when cherries were consumed alongside allopurinol, a drug that works by lowering uric acid levels.
Gout is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis caused by the crystalisation of uric acid in the joints.
Previous studies have suggested that cherries have anti-inflammatory properties and can also lower urate levels, but this research is the first to assess the impact of cherry consumption directly on the prevalence of gout attacks.
Monitoring 633 patients over a period of one year, they served some participants half cups of fresh cherries (ten to 12 cherries in total) in varying frequencies, while others were given a cherry extract and some received both. The remaining participants acted as a control group and had no cherry intake.
During the trial, researchers recorded 1,247 instances of gout attacks, 92 per cent of which occurred in the joint of the big toe. Once accounting for gender, body mass, purine intake and use of alcohol, diuretics and anti-gout medications, there was still a clear protective effect observable as a result of eating cherries.
“Our findings indicate that consuming cherries or cherry extract lowers the risk of gout attack,” said Dr Zhang. “The gout flare risk continued to decrease with increasing cherry consumption, up to three servings over two days.”
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK welcomed the research findings, adding:
“It has been thought for some time that some fruits, in particular cherries, may have benefits for diseases such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis which are characterised by chronic inflammation. It has been suggested that antioxidant compounds found in cherries may be natural inhibitors of enzymes which are targeted by common anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.
“This study provides good evidence to suggest that cherry intake, combined with traditional uric-acid reducing drugs, can significantly reduce the risk of painful gout attacks. Eating cherries, in fact, is not dissimilar to taking ibuprofen on a daily basis. However, we’d like to see additional clinical trials to further investigate and provide confirmation of this effect.”
Article as published by www.arthritisresearchuk.org, 28 September 2012