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The large study carried out over 20 years in the US found that vitamin C from food and supplements appeared to cut the risk of gout. Researchers believe vitamin C has a dual action - easing inflammation and lowering uric acid levels in the body, which are prevalent in gout.
Compared with men who did not take vitamin C supplements, those who took at least 1,000mg per day had a 34% lower risk of gout and those who took 1,500mg per day had a 45% lower risk. This was irrespective of other gout risk factors such as diet.
Vitamin C appears to reduce levels of uric acid in the blood - a build up of this naturally occurring compound can form crystal deposits in and around joints, leading to the pain and swelling associated with gout. It does this by increasing the expulsion of uric acid from the body by the kidneys.
One of the researchers, Dr Choi said:
"Given the general safety profile associated with vitamin C intake, particularly in the generally consumed ranges as in the present study, vitamin C intake may provide a useful option in the prevention of gout."
The number of people with gout has been increasing over the last 30 years and currently about 1.5% of the UK population has the condition. It is more common in men than women and tends to occur in men over 40, especially those who are overweight.
However, there are a number of risk factors for gout, including taking certain medications, being overweight and eating an unhealthy diet high in meat and seafood. Therefore supplementing with this vitamin alone is not the answer to prevent gout. You should try to maintain a healthy weight, eat only small amounts of meat and seafood, and ensure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Study details: Choi HK, Gao X, Curhan G, Vitamin C Intake and the Risk of Gout in Men. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(5):502-507.
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