As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat.” So, what you drink doesn’t really matter, right? Wrong! If you’re at risk for gout or have already experienced a few bouts of this arthritic condition, what you drink may be more important than ever.

In the past 10 years, researchers have started to draw convincing links between some of our favorite beverages and increasing gout attacks.  Here are 3 drinks that you can refill and 3 drinks that you may want to limit, if not skip altogether:

Gout-Friendly: Milk

This three-month study evaluated 120 gout patients and the protective effects of enriched skim milk powder. Participants were assigned to drink eight-ounces per day of either lactose powder, skim milk powder, or enriched skim milk powder. All three groups showed a reduction in gout flare-ups, but the group drinking the enriched skim milk powder showed significant results. Patients reported a reduction in flare-ups, lower pain levels, and less uric acid in their urine.

Gout-Friendly: Coffee

Coffee-aholics rejoice!  A 12-year study, published in the June 2007 edition of Arthritis & Rheumatism, found that long-term coffee drinkers had a substantially lowered risk of gout attacks. In fact, copious amounts of coffee were found to be the most effective! The participants who drank six cups a day saw the most impressive results—a 59 percent decrease in the risk of gout. Drinking four or five cups per day lowered the risk of gout by 40 percent. Decaf coffee also lowered the risk of flare-ups, but only by about 30 percent. Researchers proposed that the protective effect of coffee might come from its high content of antioxidants.

Gout-Friendly: Water

Drinking water and staying hydrated may be the best medicine for gout patients, according to researchers presenting at the 2009 American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting. In this study, participants recorded their daily water intake and researchers compared that information to the timing of acute gout attacks. Those who drank eight glasses of water per day saw a 48 percent reduction in the risk of attacks.

Gout-Unfriendly: Sweet Beverages

Researchers have begun to look at sugary sodas and even fruit juices as gout triggers. In 2010, study results showed that fructose (the sweetness factor found in orange juice and in high-fructose corn syrup) increases levels of uric acid in the body. That extra uric acid builds up, collects around the joints, and causes the painful symptoms associated with gout.

Gout-Unfriendly: Alcohol

Beer and gout don’t mix! And, liquor and gout don’t play well together, either. One study looked at more than 47,000 men over a period of 12 years. The participants who drank the most beer showed the most risk of developing gout. In fact, each daily serving of beer was shown to increase the risk by 50 percent. Each serving of liquor increased the risk by 15 percent.

Gout-Unfriendly: Caffeine

Wait, didn’t we just suggest that coffee, a caffeinated drink, could actually help gout?  Yes, but at the 2010 annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology researchers discussed the link between gout attacks and short-term caffeine intake. Their study results showed that drinking four caffeinated drinks in a 24-hour period increased the risk of an acute gout attack by 80 percent. Tuhina Neogi, MD, PhD, FRCPC; associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and the study’s lead investigator clarified further, “These findings suggest that episodic increases in consumption of caffeinated beverages can trigger gout attacks in the short-term.” Researchers in this study stated that long-term, habitual caffeine intake may not be associated with an increase in gout flare-ups.

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