Green tea and gout: Green tea has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But can it help gout? Read on to discover what the latest research says about the effect green tea has on gout, if any.
Green Tea and Gout
Let’s remind ourselves of what gout is before we get into whether or not green tea is good for gout…
Gout is a form of arthritis characterized by the sudden onset of inflammatory attacks that result in very painful swelling around joints (mostly at the base of the big toe).
Other symptoms of gout are: inflammation, shiny red skin over the joint, the area hot/warm to the touch, and stiffness. The pain can become excruciating just by the lightest brush across the affected joint.
The root cause of gout is high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream out of which tiny crystals of monosodium urate form in the joints and surrounding tissue.
Excess uric acid is normally excreted via the kidneys in urine. But when the kidneys aren’t excreting uric acid efficiently enough, or too much uric acid is being produced for the kidneys to handle, uric acid builds up in the bloodstream leading to an increased risk of gout attacks.
Uric acid is actually a byproduct of the breakdown of natural compounds (called ‘purines’) in our bodies’ cells and in the cells of the food we eat. Some foods are high in purines whilst others are moderately high and many low in purines. So gout sufferers have to pay close attention to their gout diet.
- Organ meats have a particularly high purine content and should be avoided altogether, as should wild game and most fish and shellfish.
- Red meat and poultry are moderately high in purines and should only be eaten in limited amounts.
- Low-purine foods are things like vegetables, fruit, nuts, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.
As for drinks, alcohol (especially beer) and sugary soft drinks / sodas are high risk factors for gout, so should be avoided or, at the very least, severely limited.
Now let’s look at green tea…
The difference between green and black types of tea is all in the processing. They both come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub which is native to East, South and Southeast Asia.
Green tea uses unfermented tea leaves so as to keep them as close as possible to their natural state. The picked leaves are quickly heated (to prevent oxidation), rolled, and dried. Because it isn’t oxidized, green tea will normally lose its flavor within a year.
The leaves for black tea are withered, rolled, oxidized, then dried. Oxidization gives black tea its color and a stronger flavor, which it can retain for a number of years.
Both teas are rich in vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols but, because it’s processed less, green tea contains higher concentrations of these healthy constituents.
‘Polyphenols’ is the general name given to a range of plant-based molecules, proven to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Such plants have been a key element in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for very many centuries.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center green tea polyphenols appear to be more potent antioxidants than vitamin C.
And several studies have indicated that polyphenols can help in areas such as:
- cardiovascular health
- liver health
- weight loss
- glucose management / diabetes
- brain health / brain function
- a potential to lower the risk of various cancers (but more work needs to be done on this)
Our good friends at Well-beingSecrets.com have listed no less than 30 health benefits of green tea which have been backed-up by scientific studies.
Does Green Tea Help Gout?
A study into the hypouricemic effects of green tea extract on people without gout concluded that:
“Green tea extract may modestly lower SUA (serum uric acid) level and decreases uric acid clearance. Green tea extract also significantly elevated serum antioxidant capacity with a positive dosage effect. The effect of GTE on SUA in healthy individuals was short term. The effects of GTE on urate handling in patients with hyperuricemia or gout need to be determined.”
We can see that there was a ‘modest’ decrease in blood uric acid. However, the study only looked at healthy individuals without gout, so it doesn’t give any data on the impact of green tea on actual gout patients.
So does taking green tea help gout? Well, the jury’s still out. But, taking into account this and other studies, maybe what we can say is that drinking green tea on a daily basis ‘may’ help to reduce the inflammation and swelling of a gout flare (due to its anti-inflammatory properties), and lower uric acid levels in the blood (albeit marginally).
The good news is that green tea is very low in purines and a cup will only have 2 calories at most. So, it’s a healthy drink to take as part of a well-balanced diet whether you suffer from gout or not.
How to Consume It Safely
So how much can you safely drink? According to the Mount Sinai website:
“Green tea has not been studied in children, so it is not recommended for pediatric use.”
“Depending on the brand, 2 to 3 cups of green tea per day (for a total of 240 to 320 mg polyphenols) or 100 to 750 mg per day of standardized green tea extract is recommended. Caffeine-free products are available and recommended.”
But they also point out that there are certain people who should avoid drinking green tea or taking green tea extract. These are people with:
- high blood pressure
- kidney problems
- liver problems
- stomach ulcers
- psychological disorders (particularly anxiety)
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
And anyone with the following conditions should seek advice from their doctor before taking any green tea / extract:
And it doesn’t stop there. As with any herbal remedy there’s the potential for green tea consumption to interact in a negative way with medication.
So, if you’re taking any medication whatsoever, consult with your doctor before drinking green tea or taking any green tea products.
What Happens If You Drink Too Much Green Tea?
According to WebMD:
“Drinking too much green tea — more than five cups per day, for example — is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. It can cause side effects because of the caffeine. These side effects can range from mild to serious and include headache, nervousness, sleep problems, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, irregular heartbeat, tremor, heartburn, dizziness, ringing in the ears, convulsions, and confusion. Green tea seems to reduce the absorption of iron from food. Drinking very high doses of green tea is LIKELY UNSAFE and can actually be fatal. The fatal dose of caffeine in green tea is estimated to be 10-14 grams (150-200 mg per kilogram). Serious toxicity can occur at lower doses.”
As long as you don’t have any of the conditions listed above, and your doctor has cleared you to take green tea, and you restrict yourself to two or three cups per day to minimize your caffeine intake, then you should get all the potential health benefits without any nasty side effects. And, of course, there are caffeine-free green tea products as well.