These 4 Types of High Purine Foods Can Make Your Gout Worse

Quincy AdamGout Lifestyle

Oysters with black cavair
If you have gout, your doctor may have advised you to follow a low-purine diet. Purines are found in high concentrations in many foods, and when digested turn into uric acid.

This substance is responsible for the crystal deposits that can settle into joints, causing gout. Eating high purine foods has been linked with a fivefold increase in recurrent gout, leading doctors to recommend that people who suffer from gout avoid certain high purine foods to reduce attacks and severity.1

1. Meat

Purines are found in protein, so high-protein foods, such as meat, are also high purine foods. Because of this, meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of gout. People who eat large quantities of meat are at a 41% increased risk of gout as compared to those who eat little or no meat.2 Patients on a low-purine diet are often advised to consume fewer than 150 mg of purines per day. Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys, and sweetbreads, often contain more than 1000 mg per serving. Gout patients should avoid organ meats, or eat them very sparingly, because of the extremely high level of purines.

Other meats, especially red and game meats, are also high in purine, though not as high as organ meats. Consumption of these meats should be limited to no more than one serving per day. Meat gravies also has a lot of this substance and should be used sparingly.

2. Seafood

Like meat, increased seafood consumption is linked with higher rates of gout. In fact, seafood consumption is even more strongly linked with rates of gout than meat, with people eating the highest amounts of seafood being 51% more likely to suffer from the disease than those who ate little or no seafood.3 Several kinds of seafood have extremely high purine levels, including anchovies and sardines. Shellfish, oysters, caviar, and many kinds of fish (tuna, salmon halibut, and others) also have high rates, and should be eaten in limited quantities.

3. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, especially beer, is associated with a higher risk for gout. This information has long been believed to be true because of anecdotal evidence, and now scientific studies have shown it to be true. Studies show that even moderate alcohol use can increase your incidence of gout, with people who drink alcohol suffering from gout two to three times more often than those that do not.4 Beer has been shown to have the highest effect on gout. Spirits are also associated with a higher risk of gout.

Because of the strong link between alcohol and gout, if you have gout, you should restrict your alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks per day. Beer intake especially should be limited if your gout is poorly controlled. During an active attack you should refrain from alcohol entirely, so as not to make your condition worse.

4. Beans and Lentils

With meat and seafood limited in a low-purine diet, many people turn to beans and lentils as an alternate protein source. While plant-based foods have not been specifically shown to increase gout attacks, they are high purine foods and may cause a flare-up in certain individuals. Lentils contain more than 100 mg of purine per serving, while navy and kidney beans contain more than 60 mg. Garbanzo and lima beans may be better bean choices for you, with lower purine contents. If your doctor has prescribed a low-purine diet, it is a good idea to be aware of the purine content of the foods you are eating, and monitor yourself for any symptoms of recurring gout.

While a low-purine diet for gout may seem limiting, it’s important to note that there are many foods that are safe to eat. Most fruits, vegetables, and grains have not been associated with an increase in symptoms, while low-fat dairy products may help reduce your risk of an attack. Eating high purine foods may make your gout worse, so it’s important to work with your doctor and nutritionist to find a diet that works for you.

1 Zhang, Yuqing, Chen, Clara, et al. “Purine-rich foods intake and recurrent gout attacks. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.” Accessed April 9, 2015.
2, 3 Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Willett W, Curhan G. “Purine-rich foods, dairy and protein intake, and the risk of gout in men.” N Engl J Med. 2004 Mar 11;350(11):1093–1103. Accessed April 9, 2015.
4 Tuhina, N., Chen, C., Niu. J., Chaisson, C., Hunter, D., Zhang, Y. “Alcohol Quantity and Type on Risk of Recurrent Gout Attacks: An Internet-based Case-crossover Study.” Accessed May 11, 2016.