Gout is a form of arthritis. It occurs when there is a build-up of too much uric acid in the body. The build-up of uric acid can lead to sharp acid deposits in the joints, deposits of uric acid (tophi) that look like lumps under the skin, and kidney stones from uric acid crystals in the kidneys.1
Impact of coffee on gout
A study in 2007 investigated the link between coffee and gout, but monitoring 46,000 men. The researchers found that men who drank 4-5 cups of coffee per day had a 40% lower relative risk of getting gout than men who did not drink coffee. It was also found that decaffeinated coffee moderately lowered the risk of getting gout, although not as much as caffeinated, and tea had no effect, suggestion that the link was due to something other than caffeine.
Elinor Mody, MD, director of the Women’s Orthopedic and Joint Disease Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston says the theory is that, “a component of coffee, chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant, may actually be the reason that coffee is associated with a lower incidence of gout”.
Chlorogenic acid and other antioxidants help reduce the blood levels of insulin. Levels of insulin and uric acid are closely related; when insulin levels are lower, uric acid levels tend to be also. This is shown in another 2007 study that showed people who drank multiple cups of coffee per day had lower levels of uric acid.
While coffee may be useful in preventing gout from developing, a 2010 study showed that people with gout who suddenly increased their intake of caffeinated beverages, like tea and coffee, were more likely to have gout attacks. This was particularly the case if they were not consistent caffeine drinkers.
This could be due to the fact that caffeine is chemically and structurally similar to allopurinol; a drug used to treat gout. When people first start taking allopurinol, the risk of gout attacks is increased, as uric acid is mobilized from body tissues. Over time the allopurinol consistently decreases the uric acid enough that the gout attacks no longer, or rarely occur. This explains why those who increased their caffeinated beverage intake suddenly, when they did not normally drink caffeine, were more likely to suffer from a gout attack than those who drank caffeine regularly. 2