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Gout? Drink Coffee!

a cup of black coffee presented on a saucer

High levels of uric acid in the blood are related to incidence of gout, which is the most common form of arthritis among adult males. Since coffee is one of the most commonly-consumed beverages in the world, does it have an effect on the incidence of gout?

Over 14,000 American adults over 20 years of age were surveyed between 1988 and 1994, as part of a long-term research program (Arthr Care Res 2007;57(5):816-821). Their blood levels of uric acid were measured, and the participants were also asked about their intake of coffee and tea and whether those were caffeinated or uncaffeinated.

Finally, the levels of beverage intake, caffeine intake, and blood levels of uric acid were analyzed, taking into account such variables as age, sex, Body Mass Index, and so on. Interestingly, they found that uric acid levels were lower in those who drank 6 or more cups of coffee per day, even when the coffee was decaffeinated. Caffeine levels, it seemed, had nothing to do with the blood levels of uric acid, and therefore with incidences of gout. In fact, those who drank 6 or more cups of coffee per day were only two-thirds as likely to have high blood levels of uric acid than those who drank one or less cups of coffee per day. The threshold of effectiveness appeared to be at least four cups of coffee per day.

What this means for you

If you have gout, it seems clear at least from this research that coffee will not affect your blood uric acid levels. (Only one other study has looked at this question in the past.) Indeed, drinking coffee, caffeinated or not, may well help. On the other hand, we know from other studies that drinking beer can lead to increases in uric acid levels in the blood. So pass on the beer; bring on the coffee!

First posted: May 30, 2007