It’s widely accepted that tomatoes and gout isn’t a good mix, i.e., tomatoes are one of the foods gout patients should avoid or, at the very least, consume in moderation.
But, is there any evidence to support this? It seems there could be…
Evidence for tomatoes being a trigger for gout.
A 2015 study by the Otago Department of Biochemistry, recorded that tomatoes were the fourth most commonly mentioned trigger for gout in a survey of 2,051 New Zealanders, all with clinically diagnosed gout.
The research team had asked each patient which foods they thought triggered their gout attacks. The most quoted was seafood, followed by alcohol, red meat, and tomatoes. So the tomato was in good company!
The researchers then analyzed pooled data from three long-running US studies to try to establish why this was so, and concluded that tomatoes are linked in some way with raised blood uric acid levels.
Before we go any further let’s get this clear; even although we find tomatoes in the vegetable aisle, it’s strictly speaking a fruit. It belongs to the ‘nightshade’ family which includes things like potatoes, peppers, eggplant, gooseberries, capsicum, okra, even the tobacco plant.
However, it’s mainly catagorized as a vegetable in terms of the way it’s used in cooking and eaten, which is why we find it in the vegetable, rather than the fruit, aisle.
Now, the strange thing is that, on the face of it, tomatoes should be an ideal food for someone with gout…
Tomatoes should be ideal for gout.
Tomatoes should be ideal because they are:
- 90% water
- low in purines
- low in sugar
- rich in vitamin C, lycopene, and antioxidants
- an alkalizing food when digested and metabolized
Purines and sugar are two of the most powerful agents for high uric acid levels. And the fact that tomatoes are so low in both of these, along with their other seemingly gout-friendly health benefits, should make them one of the best foods for gout patients.
And yet there’s this widely accepted belief that gout patients should avoid tomatoes; a notion that seems to be backed-up by this New Zealand study.
So what’s going on here?
Firstly, we have to remember that this was a survey that collected gout patients’ beliefs. It wasn’t a clinical study. So the researchers didn’t actually establish a causal link between tomato consumption and incidences of gout.
Secondly, a study by Sanchez Moreno et al in 2005 found the exact opposite of the New Zealand one…
Evidence for tomatoes helping to protect against gout.
Sanchez Moreno et al found a strong link between increased tomato consumption and raised vitamin C in the blood. They also found a link between increased tomato consumption and reduced uric acid in the blood.
Regular blood tests were carried out on 12 subjects who were each given 500 ml of commercial ‘gazpacho’ per day to eat for 14 days.
Note: Gazpacho is a truly delicious cold, uncooked ‘soup,’ containing lots of fresh ripe tomatoes (>50%), with red bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, garlic, and olive oil.
Gazpacho is very rich in vitamin C and several studies have shown that increased vitamin C can lower uric acid levels in the blood, which is probably the mechanism in play here.
So what’s the truth about tomatoes and gout?
If truth be told, there just isn’t enough evidence to prove conclusively whether tomatoes are a trigger for gout or not.
Personally speaking, I eat lots of fresh tomatoes and we use them a lot in cooking too. And I haven’t had a flare in years. So they aren’t a trigger for me.
However, we can’t escape the fact that some, but not all (around 20%), of those folks in New Zealand had linked their attacks to tomatoes.
So everyone’s different…
If you suspect that the tomatoes you’ve been eating all this time could be triggering your gout, avoid them completely for a period just to see how you get on…
If eliminating them from your diet doesn’t improve your condition, then they probably aren’t a trigger for your gout. So you can add them back into your diet, since you are no worse off, and they are full of healthy nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants.
On the other hand, if your condition does improve, then tomatoes could indeed be a trigger for your gout. But, since tomatoes are so beneficial to overall health, you may wish to determine if there’s a level of consumption that may not trigger a gout attack.
Therefore, you may wish to try adding tomatoes back into your diet, but only in moderation, not to the full extent you once did…
Now, under these moderate conditions, if your condition worsens again you know tomatoes are a definite trigger and to avoid them completely.
However, if your condition doesn’t get worse, then you’ve found a level of consumption that doesn’t trigger an attack. So keep consuming them at that moderate level for their overall health benefits.
When it comes to the thorny question of tomatoes and gout; to eat or avoid?…use you’re common sense and listen to your body; it knows what’s best for you.