December 10, 2014 | Volume 11, Issue 114
Can coffee make the dreadful
pain of gout go away?
A lot of people love their coffee. But a lot of nutritionists advise against it. They do that even though there are quite a few studies showing that the more coffee you drink, the less your chance of Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease. Now there's another reason to drink coffee. Recently researchers published some data that shows that the more coffee you drink, the lower your chances are of having a gout attack.

The authors of the study looked at the chance of getting gout in 89,433 women over a 26-year period. During that time, they found 896 confirmed cases of gout. Then they looked at whether or not drinking coffee had an effect on the chance of getting gout. The numbers were amazing.

Compared to those who did not drink coffee, the women who drank one eight ounce cup or less per day had the same risk for having a gout attack. So no help there. But for those who drank anywhere from one to four cups per day, the risk went down 22%. And when the women drank four or more cups per day, the risk was more than cut in half — down 57%. By the way, this is not just a girl thing. Another recent study showed the same thing happens in men. So what's in coffee that decreases the risk of gout? And how does it do it?

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While there may be some other substances in coffee that prevent gout, it looks like the main ingredient is caffeine. That idea is reinforced because when the researchers looked at the total intake of caffeine from both coffee and other sources, the results were similar. Those with the highest intake of caffeine were about half as likely to get gout as their no-caffeine friends. Gout attacks happen when the body develops an overload of uric acid. There are two ways this can happen. One, it can happen when too much uric acid is formed. And two, it can happen when the kidney does not eliminate the uric acid fast enough.

In the first case, caffeine can decrease the formation of uric acid because the body uses the same enzyme (xanthine oxidase) to metabolize caffeine that it does to make uric acid. So the more caffeine you take in, the more the enzyme will be used to metabolize the caffeine and less will be available to make uric acid.

In the second case, caffeine makes the hormone insulin more sensitive. This means there will be less insulin in the body. This is good for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons is that insulin acts to decrease the elimination of uric acid from the kidney. So the less insulin there is the more uric acid will be eliminated.

So if you like coffee, here's one more reason to go for it. And if you have gout, it looks like coffee or caffeine from other sources might be a good way to prevent any more attacks. But let me leave you with one last word of caution — heartburn. Heartburn, also known as reflux disease, is rampant in our country. And the number one cause is coffee. So if you are drinking all that good coffee and at the same time are swallowing remedies for heartburn or reflux, find another way to get some caffeine.

Yours for better health,


Choi HK, Curhan G. Coffee consumption and risk of incident gout in women: the Nurses' Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Oct;92(4):922-7.

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