Is there a connection between vitamin C and gout? About a decade ago, research began to suggest that taking a daily dose of vitamin C could help to reduce gout risk. This was good news for people who were looking for natural remedies to help moderate uric acid levels.
Let’s take a look at this painful condition and what the research shows us today.
What is gout?
Gout is a complex form of arthritis. It causes excruciating pain and swelling triggered by the crystallization of uric acid within the joints. The high level of uric acid can cause inflammation and redness at the joints, lingering discomfort and intense joint pain. Over the past 20 years, the number of people around the world living with this pain has significantly increased.
It was once thought to be a disease of the affluent. Those at high risk of developing gout often engage in:
- eating a diet rich in meat, seafood, fructose, and alcohol
- being obese or overweight
- having untreated high blood pressure
- living with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart and kidney disease
- having a family history of gout
Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood and then passes through the kidneys and out of the body in urine.
But it can build up in the blood when:
- the body increases the amount of uric acid it makes
- the kidneys do not get rid of enough uric acid
- a person eats too many foods high in purines
Can vitamin C intake prevent gout?
While previous research touted vitamin C’s benefit in moderating gout risk, newer studies indicate that is not the case.
In 2013, researchers recruited 40 gout patients who had urate levels greater than the ACR treatment target level. Of the 40, 20 patients already on allopurinol were given an additional 500 mg dose of vitamin C daily or had the dose of allopurinol (a drug used to prevent gout attacks) increased.
The 20 patients who were not taking allopurinol prior to the study were put on allopurinol or vitamin C (500 mg/day). Researchers analyzed blood levels of vitamin C, creatinine and uric acid at baseline and week 8.
Study findings show that taking 500 mg/day of vitamin C for eight weeks did not lower urate levels to a clinically significant degree in gout patients.
In fact, the study found that the reduction of uric acid was significantly less in gout patients taking vitamin C supplements than in those who started or increased their dose of allopurinol.
Lifestyle changes to treat gout
If you have undergone unsuccessful treatment for gout, you might be wondering if there are alternative or natural treatments to consider.
Before discussing alternative treatments with your physician, consider the cause and severity of the gout you are experiencing. Also, consider adopting health, diet and lifestyle measures that will help moderate gout attacks.
- organ meats
- high fructose corn syrup-sweetened foods and drinks
- alcohol use
Limit or avoid:
- servings of meat, including beef, lamb, pork and seafood
- table sugar
- servings of naturally sweet fruit juices
- table salt
- vegetables (this includes options that are high in purines, as research has shown such vegetables do not trigger gout attacks)
- whole grains and legumes (this includes barley, lentils and tofu)
- fruits (cherries, in particular, may reduce inflammation and help prevent gout attacks)
- oils that are plant-based such as coconut
The bottom line on vitamin C and gout
Based on recent research, national and international guidelines for managing gout do not support the use of vitamin C as an alternative treatment for gout.
While some initial studies seemed to show that vitamin C was effective in treating gout, more recent research refutes this claim. However, eating whole food, plant-based options at every meal helps prevent future attacks.
Here’s more on what you need to know about gout:
How do you prevent gout attacks?
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This post has been updated in May 2019 with new information and resources.