More than 8 million Americans feel like they’re waiting on pins and needles—literally—until their next attack of pain, swelling, and redness of the joints. In these individuals, the body is dealing with excess uric acid and the resulting arthritic condition, gout.

Thankfully, most individuals suffering from gout are able to control their symptoms and minimize flare-ups. Common medical treatments include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and other prescription medications. For those who would also consider natural treatments, changes in physical activity and diet have been suggested as worthwhile home remedies.

A recent study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology, showed that one specific food—tart cherries—might hold promise as an effective treatment for gout. More than 630 gout sufferers signed up for the study and were followed by researchers, via the Internet, for one year.

As expected, the study group suffered numerous gout flare-ups. At the onset of an attack, individuals would record the date and symptoms. The participants were also asked to note any medications or risk factors they had been exposed to in the previous two days. Lastly, individuals would record their intake of cherries (the whole fruit, juice, or extract) from the previous two days.

In the end, researchers found that moderate cherry intake was associated with a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks when compared with zero intake. They determined that two or three servings of cherries was extremely effective. That’s just 1 1/2 cups or 30 cherries over the course of 48 hours. Eating more than 30 cherries didn’t seem to be worthwhile and researchers saw no additional benefits.

Cherry intake wasn’t just effective for one group of gout sufferers—it worked regardless of sex, weight, diet, and medication usage. In fact, when cherry intake was combined with a common prescription drug used to treat gout (allopurinol), the risk of gout attacks was decreased by a whopping 75 percent!

Cherry consumption is a hot topic for gout researchers today. Many believe that the anthocyanin content of cherries is what makes them so effective. These compounds have been shown to have extraordinary anti-inflammatory effects.

Although the researchers in this study noted that two or three servings of cherries were enough to ward off gout attacks, this intake level may not apply to all individuals. You may see results with an even lower intake or you may need a higher dose of cherries. But, be careful—a high intake of cherries may actually trigger a gout flare-up.

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