Arthritis & Gout

Research indicates that tart cherries may help reduce inflammation related to arthritis and gout.

For decades, people with arthritis and gout have consumed tart cherry juice for relief of symptoms – even though much of the evidence was anecdotal, and some people dismissed the soothing claims as folklore.

Now there’s hard science to back it up.  Tart cherries are one of the highest sources of phenolic compounds, specifically anthocyanins, which have been shown to fight inflammation – even as much as some pain medications. In fact, some researchers have concluded that tart cherries have more inflammation-fighting potential than any other food.

A look at the evidence.

  • Reduces uric acid levels. Excess uric acid in the blood is the culprit behind the excruciating pain of a gout attack. When participants drank 8 ounces of 100 percent tart cherry juice daily for four weeks they experienced lower levels of uric acid in their blood, which is a biomarker for inflammation and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For more on this study, click here.
  • Lowers risk of gout attacks. Patients with gout who consumed tart cherries over a two-day period showed a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks compared to no intake. The risk of gout attacks was 75 percent lower when tart cherry intake was combined with the uric acid reducing drug allopurinol. For more on this study, click here.
  • Manages osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common disorder affecting 70 million North Americans. Oregon Health & Science University found that participants who drank 10.5-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice twice daily for 21 days experienced a significant reduction in serum biomarkers of inflammation.  They concluded that tart cherry juice may be an effective way for osteoarthritis patients to manage their disease. For more on this study, click here.

What you can do:

  • Replace the juice you’re currently drinking with tart cherry juice, or look for tart cherry juice blends. All forms of tart cherries have anti-inflammatory benefits, but on a per serving basis, tart cherry juice concentrate was found by researchers to have the greatest anti-inflammatory activity.

With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it’s promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications. I’m intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults.

Kerry Kuehl, MD, DrPH, Oregon Health & Science University