Page last updated at 09:23 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Vitamin C a 'gout preventer'

Gout is a type of arthritis

Men who get plenty of vitamin C may boost their resilience to the painful joint disease gout, work suggests.

In the 20-year study of nearly 47,000 men, daily supplements of the vitamin found in sprouts, peppers and oranges appeared to cut gout risk.

The US researchers believe vitamin C has a dual action - easing inflammation and lowering uric acid levels in the body that go awry in gout.

The findings are published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Experts warned that the news should not be taken to mean that it was fine to lead an unhealthy lifestyle and pop a vitamin pill to counteract this.

It would be unwise for people to think they can compensate for eating and drinking too much by taking vitamin C with their pint of beer
Rheumatologist Dr Michael Snaith

There are a number of risk factors for gout, including taking certain medications, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and eating an unhealthy diet high in meat.

Although the condition is more associated with Victorian times, the numbers with gout have been increasing over the last 30 years and currently about 1.5% of the UK population has the condition.

In the study, 1,317 of the men, who were all health professionals, developed gout.

Compared with men who did not take vitamin C supplements, those who took 1,000mg to 1,499mg 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 and alcohol use.

Lead researcher Dr Hyon Choi, of Boston University School of Medicine, said there were good reasons to believe that vitamin C was having a beneficial effect on the men.


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.

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."

Generally, people should be able to get all the vitamin C they need - 40mg a day - by eating a varied and balanced diet.

UK experts say taking 1,000 mg or less of vitamin C supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm. Gastrointestinal effects such as diarrhoea have been reported with doses over 1000 mg/day.

Rheumatologist Dr Michael Snaith, also of the UK Gout Society, said: "Vitamin C may reduce the frequency of attacks and provide a degree of protection. But that does not mean to say that taking whacking great amounts of vitamin C is going to eliminate gout.

"It would be unwise for people to think they can compensate for eating and drinking too much by taking vitamin C with their pint of beer."

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