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DASH diet may help prevent gout flares, research shows

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Changes in diet are often recommended for people suffering from gout, and new research confirms that a healthy diet can effectively lower blood levels of uric acid.

Gout is a type of arthritis which is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood. Small crystals form in and around joints, causing them to become swollen and painful.

Yet while diet is known to be an important determinant of blood uric acid levels, there is very little clinical trial evidence to inform patients´ food choice.

Dr Stephen Juraschek of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and colleagues, looked at the potential of the Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, a diet with well-established benefits for lowering blood pressure, for lowering uric acid. This diet emphasises fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods and reduced consumption of saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. It also contains whole grains, lean meats, fish, nuts and beans.

A randomised, crossover feeding trial in 103 adults showed that the DASH diet lowered uric acid on average by 0.35 mg/dL. In individuals with uric acid levels >7 mg/dL, which is common among patients with gout, the DASH diet lowered uric acid by >1 mg/dL.

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that a higher sodium intake (which was about equal to the average sodium consumed in a typical American diet) decreased uric acid levels compared with low sodium intake. The mechanism by which increased sodium intake decreases uric acid is not yet known.

The findings suggest that the DASH diet may be an effective approach to prevent flares in gout patients.

“Physicians may now confidently recommend the DASH diet to patients with gout in order to lower uric acid levels,” commented Dr Juraschek. “Our findings also show how sodium, or salt, can alter uric acid levels, which provides important insights in further understanding dietary triggers of gout flares.”