One of the most popular medicinal uses of cherries, cherry juice, and cherry extracts has been in the treatment and prevention of gout – a painful form of arthritis characterized by increased blood levels of uric acid and the formation of uric acid crystals in joints. Cherries, hawthorn berries, blueberries, and other dark red and blue berries are rich sources of anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins. These compounds are flavonoid molecules, which give these fruits their deep red-blue color, and are remarkable in their ability to prevent destruction to connective tissue and joints.

Background Information

Consuming the equivalent of one-half pound of fresh cherries per day was shown in a 1950 study to be effective in lowering uric acid levels and preventing attacks of gout. Since then additional studies have confirmed these benefits:

  • Results from a study in healthy women who ate a bowl of Bing cherries for breakfast indicated that the cherry intake not only lowered blood levels of uric acid, but also increased the urinary excretion of uric acid and lowered markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein (a chemical produced by the liver that increases rapidly during inflammation, such as in a gout attack) and nitric oxide (a chemical that is also involved in damaging arthritic joints).
  • A follow-up study on healthy men and women had them consume the equivalent of 45 cherries/day for 28 days. Again, a significant reduction in C-reactive protein and nitric oxide were observed.

New Data

In the most recent study conducted by researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, cherry intake was again shown to reduce gout attacks. The study recruited 633 people with gout and followed them online for a year. Participants answered questions about gout onset, symptoms, risk factors, medications, and whether they ate cherries or took cherry extract, and for how long.

When the researchers analyzed the participant responses, they found that cherry intake (defined as one-half cup or 10 to 12 cherries or the equivalent in extract form) over a two day period was associated with a 35% lower risk for gout attacks and that cherry extract intake was associated with a 45% lower risk. The risk for gout attacks was reduced by 75% when cherry intake was combined with allopurinol, the standard drug used in the prevention of gout attacks.

These benefits persisted even after taking into account factors that can affect gout risk, such as gender, obesity, purine intake (in foods that can increase gout risk), plus use of alcohol, diuretics and anti-gout medications.

Reference

Zhang Y, Neogi T, Chen C, et al. Cherry consumption and the risk of recurrent gout attacks. Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Sep 28. doi: 10.1002/art.346718. [Epub ahead of print]

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