Coffee and gout: Starting the day with coffee is a ritual for millions of us. Now it has been discovered that coffee can actually reduce your risk of gout.
Coffee and Gout
I remember that when I was first diagnosed with gout, many years ago, the doctor told me to stop drinking coffee as it was a trigger for gout. In fact, he wasn’t the only medical professional who told me that back then.
But, as I said, that was many years ago and today, as a result of several studies, we now know that coffee may actually reduce your risk of gout.
What’s the Evidence that Coffee Helps Gout?
At least two large-scale studies have shown that long-term coffee consumption reduces the risk of gout…
In a study published in 2007 the risk of gout was found to be 59% lower for men who consumed 6 or more cups of coffee daily, than those who didn’t take coffee at all.
The risk was found to be 40% lower for men who consumed 4 to 5 cups of coffee daily.
And drinking 1 to 3 cups of coffee daily was found to lower the risk of gout by around 8%.
The study concluded that there was an inverse relationship between long-term coffee consumption and incident gout. In other words, increased coffee consumption lessens the risk of gout.
Interestingly, the study didn’t find the same effect with tea. And total caffeine intake, from all sources, was not associated with gout risk either.
But the researchers did find an association between decaffeinated coffee and uric acid levels, albeit not as strong as with caffeinated consumption.
In 2010, the same team carried out a large-scale study on women, with a similar outcome, i.e. long-term coffee consumption associated with a lower risk of gout.
Another 2010 study, this time of Japanese adults, middle-age plus, looked into the relationship between coffee and blood uric acid levels.
It found a strong relationship between coffee consumption and lower uric acid in men, but much less in women.
This study also found that tea had no effect on uric acid levels in the blood.
How Does Coffee Reduce Uric Acid?
Although there’s sufficient evidence for the uric acid reducing properties of coffee, it isn’t clear yet what the mechanism is.
One theory put forward is that it’s the phenol chlorogenic acid – a powerful antioxidant – found in coffee that is the active ingredient. (It’s worth noting that coffee is one of the top five highest antioxidant foods, even more than red wine.)
Some studies suggest that chlorogenic compounds can significantly regulate iron absorption in the body. This is important since iron overload contributes to the development of gout.
But don’t suddenly start drinking 5 or 6 cups of coffee a day!
Another 2010 study showed that greatly increasing caffeine consumption in a short period actually increases the risk of a gout attack.
So what’s going on here?
Well, it’s been observed for some time now that rapid changes in blood uric acid levels (either up or down) can actually trigger an attack.
We really don’t know why this happens; we just know that it does.
When someone suddenly starts drinking, say, 4 to 6 cups of coffee a day, when previously they drank none at all, or 1 or 2 at most, there’s a good chance that an attack will be triggered.
So if you are thinking of increasing your coffee intake, start slowly and work up to what is comfortable for you. Remember that those large-scale studies were about long-term, not short-term, coffee consumption.
And remember also that, although coffee has numerous health benefits including helping to lower the risk of gout, it does contain caffeine, and too much caffeine can be bad for you:
- it can become ‘almost’ addictive
- it raises blood pressure
- it impairs your adrenal glands
- it causes problems such as insomnia, headaches, indigestion, and anxiety
And there are some people who should limit their coffee intake or avoid it altogether:
- pregnant women
- people with sleep problems
The key is to drink coffee in moderation.
Note: You need to consult with your doctor / healthcare provider prior to increasing your daily coffee intake; especially if you experience adverse effects such as nervousness, muscle tremors, fast heartbeat, and insomnia.
What About Coffee Supplements?
If you don’t like coffee, or don’t want to be drinking 4 or 5 cups per day, perhaps green coffee bean extract could be a viable alternative.
Green coffee beans are a richer source of essential compounds, such as chlorogenic acids, compared to coffee which has gone through the traditional roasting process.
Dr. Oz suggested that people look for green coffee bean extract with a minimum of 45% chlorogenic acid.