Pork and Gout: Here you’ll discover if pork is safe to eat with gout. But, perhaps an even more important question is, should you be eating pork at all? Could it be bad for your overall health?
Pork and Gout
Pork is the meat of the domestic pig. It’s hugely popular worldwide although it’s forbidden in several religions including Islam and Judaism. So adherents of these religions do not eat pork or pork products.
Outside of such religions, pork is the most widely consumed meat, including processed products like smoked and cured pork, bacon, sausages, gammon, and ham. It accounts for over 36% of the world meat intake, followed by poultry at around 35% and beef at approx. 22%. Source.
There’s some confusion as to whether it’s a white meat or a red meat. The food industry generally refers to it as a white meat whilst most food scientists and nutritionists classify it as a red meat, most probably because it contains small amounts of myoglobin, a red-pigmented protein, which gives meat its color.
Gout is a painful form of arthritis whose root cause is too much uric acid circulating in the bloodstream that can lead to microscopic uric acid crystals forming in the joints and surrounding tissue. This can trigger the very painful symptoms of a gout attack (sometimes called a ‘gout flare’ or ‘gout flare-up’). The most common joint for these gout flare-ups is the joint at the base of the big toe (around 70% of occurrences).
Uric acid is a waste product produced when natural chemical compounds called ‘purines’ — in our body’s cells and in the cells of the food we eat — breakdown during metabolism; the process by which your body converts the food you eat into energy.
- More purines => more uric acid production => a higher risk of gout attacks.
- Less purines => less uric acid production => a lower risk of gout attacks.
Because of the increased risk of gout flare-ups, gout patients are usually advised by their doctor to completely avoid purine-rich foods, i.e., those types of foods producing more than 200 mg of uric acid per 3.5 oz (100 g) serving. For example, high-purine foods like organ meats, game, certain red meat, and quite a few fish and shellfish species, are to be avoided.
But foods containing moderate amounts of purines (those producing 100-200 mg of uric acid per 3.5 oz serving) may be eaten in limited amounts, i.e., in smaller serving sizes and consumed less often (see below). Some examples of foods with moderate purine content are: beef, chicken, haddock, and asparagus.
Foods with even lower purine content, such as most vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products (including low-fat milk), nuts, beans, seeds, fruit, berries, and even some seafood, are safe to eat with gout.
Is Pork Safe for Gout?
Pork falls into the moderate-purine food category, so gout sufferers are usually advised to eat it in — you’ve guessed it — moderation, i.e., no more than 1 x 3.5 oz (100 g) serving per day and not every day.
If you stick to that, within an overall low-purine diet, then there shouldn’t be a problem.
However, it’s not just high levels of purines and excess uric acid we need to consider, it’s also the overall ‘healthiness’ of pork…
How Healthy is Pork?
Pork is a rich source of high-quality protein, vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B12, vitamin D, iron, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. So, on the face of it, it should have its rightful place in a healthy diet.
However, irrespective of pork’s nutritional value, some experts advise against its consumption. For example, Dr. Josh Axe has highlighted several problems with pork:
- The pig’s problematic digestive system.
- Increased cancer risk from bacon and other processed pork.
- Swine flu in humans.
- Trichinosis dangers (caused by roundworms in pork).
- Pigs harbor common viruses and parasites.
- Factory farming and pigs.
- Drug resistant bacteria in pork chops and ground pork.
And there are some moral concerns. For example, is modern large-scale industrial pig farming inhumane? The industry will argue ‘no’ but other groups like Peta will argue ‘yes.’ Who to believe?
So do we have to give up on all animal foods, including pork?
Not necessarily. The University of California ‘Berkeley Wellness’ website has this advice:
As with all animal products, the alternative is to buy pork from sources that raise pigs more humanely and to support organizations trying to reduce needless suffering of farm animals.
Ultimately, if you aren’t willing to go whole hog and give up all meat, the best alternative is to limit your intake by eating small portions of humanely raised meat— which probably won’t cost more than larger portions of factory-farmed meat—along with more plant-based protein sources (such as peas). Labels from trustworthy organizations include “Animal Welfare Approved,” “Certified Humane,” “American Humane Certified,” and “Food Alliance Certified.”
Of course, at the end of the day, it’s entirely down to the individual whether or not to include moderate amounts of pork in their gout diet.
Personally, I rather like pork and have never had any health issues with it, gout or otherwise. And I’m not aware that any of my family or friends have had any problems either.
Of course, I’ve never eaten pork or pork products to any great extent and follow the ‘consume in moderation’ mantra. But, going forward, I’m going to pay even closer attention to where my food choices are sourced from.