Greater vitamin C intake from food and supplements equals lower gout risk

Men who have a high intake of vitamin C may have a reduced risk of developing gout according to a report published in the March 9, 2009 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis in men. The disease is characterized by higher than normal blood uric acid, which forms crystal deposits in the joints that cause inflammation and severe pain.

Researchers led by Hyon K. Choi, MD, DrPH at the University of British Columbia analyzed data from 46,994 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of dentists, osteopaths, optometrists, podiatrists and veterinarians. Responses to dietary questionnaires completed by the subjects upon enrollment in 1986 and every four years through 2006 were evaluated for vitamin C content from food and supplements. Data concerning weight, medication use, and medical conditions were collected every two years.

Over the follow-up period, gout developed in 1,317 men. Men whose total vitamin C intake was 1500 milligrams per day or more experienced a 45 percent lower risk of gout compared with those whose intake was below 250 milligrams. The risk of gout was found to decrease by 17 percent for each 500 milligram increase in vitamin C consumption. A separate analysis of vitamin C from supplements found a 45 percent reduction in gout risk when those who consumed over 1500 milligrams per day were compared with those who did not report using supplements.

The study is the first to the authors' knowledge to provide prospective evidence concerning the relationship between increased vitamin C intake and a reduction in the risk of gout. In their commentary on the finding, the authors cite previous research which determined that vitamin C increases the excretion of uric acid, thereby lowering serum uric acid levels. They also note the possibility of vitamin C's antioxidant action having a protective effect against the inflammation that occurs in the disease.

"Epidemiologic studies suggest that the overall disease burden of gout is substantial and growing," the authors write. "The identification of the risk factors for gout that are modifiable with available measures is an important first step in the prevention and management of this common and excruciatingly painful condition."

"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," they conclude.