Prompted by an incredibly high number of visitors looking for links between chicken and gout, I’m reminded of that age-old conundrum: which came first, the chicken or the egg?
I’ll rephrase that to ‘which first, the chicken or the gout?’ I’m wondering if I’m besieged by ardent chicken-eaters who think they have caught gout from chicken. Or is it gout sufferers who think they’ll get a better deal switching to chicken from a different meat?
I am puzzled why so many people are searching for chicken information, and also wondering exactly what they are looking for. Is it another case of misguided gout diet restrictions, or is there a valid reason to worry about chicken?
I see searches for various combinations of the words chicken and gout. One search is obvious: is eating chicken bad for gout. If you have a question, I am pleased that you search for answers before you ask them. If you find the answer, which most people do, then that is good. If you do not, please just ask now.
Do Chicken-Eaters Catch Gout?
Do you think you caught gout from a chicken? Gout isn’t an infectious disease like bird flu, so you definitely can’t catch it. Maybe you think eating lots of chicken causes your gout through raising uric acid?
Now, that is a sensible question. We know from studies of purine metabolism, and the purines in chicken, that there is a risk here, but how big is the risk?
Your recommended meat limit of around 5oz per day gives roughly 150mg of purines. We usually measure uric acid in mg/dL, and there are around 50 deciliters of blood. So 150mg would give approximately 3mg/dL increase. That is quite a big increase, but is it the full story?
No, it is not.
Uric acid is constantly turning over in our bodies. Purines in the flesh we eat and purines from our own flesh are constantly breaking down to form uric acid. Ideally, that is balanced by purines going to make new cells, and uric acid excreted through the kidneys and through the gut.
It is a very complex situation where every individual has a different starting volume (uric acid pool size), and different rates of uric acid production and excretion. The values vary widely and change dramatically under the influence of many medications. There is no such thing as a meaningful average. But with values from the high hundreds into several thousand, 150mg is not significant.
Not only is it insignificant, but it is totally meaningless out of context. You have to consider your total diet, which will include balancing foods such as skim milk, which has been shown to increase the amount of uric acid you excrete.
Restricting a single food item is never enough. More importantly, the effects of purines on uric acid are too complicated to work out. You can use food tables to help decide between different foods, but the only valid measure is a uric acid blood test.
Should Gout Sufferers Switch To Chicken?
That brings me to consider if people are searching for chicken and gout information to see if chicken is better than their current favorite meat. This depends on what you are considering switching from, so let’s explore the difference between beef and chicken for gout sufferers.
With purines in beef, our 5oz gives a potential for 400mg of uric acid compared to 150mg for chicken. Ignoring all other factors, this is a massive 8mg/dL for our typical 50-deciliter male. Quite a hike, but it still ignores all the other factors, so again, it is very hard to see the true significance of this.
Chicken Or Gout – Is it a choice?
All my explanations above lead to the same conclusion. There is absolutely no point in restricting a single gout food. You must analyze total gout diet, and you must measure expected improvements from changing diet by measuring actual uric acid in the blood. Anything less than this makes no difference at all.
My main concern is that I lost most of my audience when I mentioned a five-ounce meat portion.
All medical authorities I have seen recommend this sort of meat intake, to avoid risks of heart disease and cancer. This is a gout website, so I am not going to investigate those guidelines in detail. If you want to do that, please share your findings in the gout forums.
As I keep emphasizing, if you have concerns about your diet with respect to gout, you must see your doctor, as I am not qualified.
My personal view is that, if you follow a healthy diet as recommended by the USDA Choose My Plate scheme or similar, the meat content has such little effect on gout that it should not be an issue. So that leaves 2 scenarios.
- 1. You eat a healthy diet and your uric acid level is still over 6.5mg/dL (0.36 mmol/L).
- Gout is almost certainly not caused by diet, therefore gout diet restrictions are unlikely to help. Do a complete analysis and discuss it in the gout forums if you wish. There is a slim chance that a few strict diet changes will help if you are in the 6-8 range. Most likely option is allopurinol, or other uric acid lowering treatment.
- 2. You love meat and consider anything less than one pound a day as cruel starvation.
- Take allopurinol at the right dose. It stops 100% of uric acid from food, and 50% of uric acid from your own body.
In either event or any other case you can think of, the option of doing nothing is not an option. Every day that you do nothing is a day that your joints are getting eaten away. This is separate from the pain you suffer during a gout attack. You do not notice the joints crumbling until it is too late, and you are crippled.
Leave Which First: Chicken Or Gout? to browse the facts about food in the Gout Diet guidelines.
Animal Welfare Disclosure: No chickens were harmed during the preparation of this article. Pigs were almost affected, but I ran out of bacon, so had to settle for a cheese sandwich. If you are affected by issues raised in this article, please contact the chicken and gout helpline.