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It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Does cooking affect the purine content of foods?

Does purine content decrease by cooking? Thanks.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

A sliced tenderloin of beef, a rich source of purine

The short answer to this question is yes. The longer answer is that we don't know by exactly how much for very many specific ingredients.

In one article that was published (1) in Germany (in German) it appears that there is a slight decrease in the purine content of foods mostly by losses of the purines into the water the ingredients were cooked in.

This was quantified as part of research by Anna Ellington (2) as part of her Masters thesis. She performs an exhaustive review of the literature and cites a number of studies showing a significant decrease in the purine content of foods. Note that many of these studies show a great deal of variation and include both a washing or rinsing step (or steps) along with cooking and drying across a wide variety of techniques — boiling, drying, steaming, mincing, boiling, etc..

As part of her research she looked at staples of ground beef and ground turkey using a variety of fat contents of each product. In every case the content was reduced with small reductions after sautéing or grilling and larger after such things as rinsing, draining and centrifuging (things that you likely are not going to do in day-to-day cooking).

For example, after 5 minutes of rinsing and centrifuging and then grilling the purine content had decreased to 4.59 milligrams purine per gram of protein from 8.58 mg/g. That's a decrease of almost half of the purine content. With just grilling the reduction is to 7.17 mg/g or a 17% decrease.

The key to gout is to reduce the amount of purines consumed and the research has shown that those purines contained in animal proteins are the main issue in causing a gout flare. The key is reducing the amount of animal protein and the good news is that when you cook that it appears to reduce the purine content at least somewhat.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet

1. https://link-springer-com.libproxy.tulane.edu/article/10.1007/BF02023809
2. https://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/ellington_anna_k_200708_ms.pdf