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Managing Diseases and Conditions

Keeping Dietary Purines Low

If you have gout, your doctor is likely to recommend diet changes to help prevent a future attack: Eliminating meat and alcohol, for example, are important steps. Obesity is also related to gout (learn how to lose weight safely).

Doctors also recommend choosing foods that are low in substances called purines. Purines are the building blocks of genes, the genetic messages in the body. They naturally occur in all body cells and in some foods. We do not need to eat any purines, however, since our body readily makes all we need from the food we eat.

When purines are digested and broken down in the body, the waste product is uric acid. For this reason, purine-containing foods can aggravate gout, a form of arthritis that occurs as a result of the buildup of uric acid in the joints. Excess uric acid may also play a role in the development of kidney stones.

Doctors often recommend that people with gout eliminate or strictly limit foods with high or moderate purine content from their diet. As you'll see, there are many animal foods that contain high amounts of purines.

Foods High in Purines

  • Anchovies
  • Brains
  • Goose
  • Gravy
  • Heart
  • Herring
  • Kidney
  • Mackerel
  • Meat bouillon/broth/consommé
  • Meat extracts
  • Mincemeat
  • Mussels
  • Partridge
  • Roe
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Sweetbreads
  • Yeast, baker's and brewer's as supplement

Foods Moderately High in Purines

  • Meat and fish (except those found above), including poultry and shellfish
  • Some plant foods, such as beans, lentils, peas, asparagus, and mushrooms, also have modestly high levels of purines. However, a recent report from Harvard found that plant sources of purines did not increase the risk of gout.1

1. 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 11;350:1093-103.