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April 2013

Mediterranean Style Diet May Reduce Risk of Gout

Adopting a Mediterranean style diet may help lower the risk of hyperuricemia in older adults, according to a study.

Uric acid comes from the breakdown of purines, compounds that are found in all human tissue and many foods. Uric acid is normally released in the urine. If it builds up in the body, this may lead to health problems such as hyperuricemia, also known as gout.

Gout may cause joint inflammation and pain if uric acid builds up in the joints. Uric acid may also build up in the kidney and urinary tract, causing kidney stones. Symptoms of gout may develop quickly. The prevalence of gout has increased in the last 50 years due to poor diet. A low purine diet that contains plenty of starchy foods, fruits, and vegetables may help reduce the risk of gout.

The Mediterranean diet has been studied for its potential health benefits. This diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber and nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. The diet generally includes fruits, vegetables and "healthy" fats such as olive oil. Olive oil has been linked to lower blood pressure, lower heart disease risk, and benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.

In the current study, researchers evaluated the Mediterranean diet for its potential benefits in reducing uric acid and the risk of gout. They analyzed information from 4,449 elderly people who were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean style diet containing olive oil, a Mediterranean style diet containing nuts, or a control diet. Of these participants, 3,037 did not have gout at the start of the study. The research team measured the subjects' uric acid concentrations. Gout was considered present with levels greater than 7 milligrams per deciliter in men and 6 milligrams per deciliter in women.

During the five-year follow-up, 756 of the people without gout developed the disorder. Meanwhile, 422 of the 964 people with gout reversed their condition. The researchers noticed that better adherence to the Mediterranean style diet was associated with decreasing uric acid levels. Eating red meat and seafood and drinking wine appeared to be linked to a higher prevalence of gout.

The research team concluded that higher adherence to a Mediterranean style diet may be linked to a lower risk of gout. More information is needed before firm conclusions can be made.

Parts of the ash tree have been studied for potential benefits on gout. Motherwort, an Asian plant also known as "lion's tail" or "lion's ear," has also been evaluated for this purpose. However, there is unclear or conflicting evidence on the effectiveness of these two therapies for gout. More research is required.

For more information about gout, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Guasch-Ferré M, Bulló M, Babio N, et al. Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Hyperuricemia in Elderly Participants at High Cardiovascular Risk. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 Apr 17. [Epub ahead of print] 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.

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