Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that occurs due to a buildup of urate crystals around a joint. Certain foods, such as those with high levels of fructose, may cause gout flares.

Gout causes a person to develop pain and inflammation around their joints. A study from 2019 found that around 9.2 million people in the United States had gout in 2015–2016.

Urate is a substance the body produces when it breaks down purine, a naturally occurring compound in certain foods, such as red meat. High urate levels in the blood can lead to the formation of needle-shaped crystals that cause irritation and inflammation in joints.

Read on to learn more about whether consuming sugar can worsen gout, how to reduce sugar consumption, gout treatment, and when to speak with a doctor.

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Gout occurs due to high levels of urate in the blood, also known as hyperuricemia.

Eating food and drinks that contain fructose, a type of sugar, can increase a person’s urate levels. This is because when the body breaks down fructose, it releases purines. Fructose occurs naturally in fruits and honey.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an artificial sweetener that contains 42–55% fructose. People often consume it in sodas.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases lists drinking beverages containing HFCS as a risk factor for gout. Similarly, it suggests that avoiding drinks with HFCS may help reduce gout flares.

However, a person can have hyperuricemia without having gout. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that hyperuricemia without gout symptoms does not require treatment.

Gout and sugar research

A study from 2019 suggests that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of developing gout. Additionally, the study authors note that drinking fruit juice may slightly increase a person’s chances of having gout.

They did not find that eating fruit increased the risk. However, they state that further studies are required to confirm their findings.

Research from 2020 also notes that a high fructose intake is associated with hyperuricemia.

Similarly, a 2021 study found that the risk of hyperuricemia from sugar intake may relate to a person’s age and weight. The researchers note that adults with obesity in the study who consumed excessive amounts of added sugar in sodas had the highest risk of hyperuricemia.

If a person has gout, their doctor may recommend reducing their sugar intake. This may involve limiting food and drinks such as:

  • soda
  • processed foods, particularly if they contain HFCS
  • fruit juice

However, it is generally best not to avoid fruits altogether, as they contain beneficial nutrients. People can instead be mindful of how much fruit they consume.

A person may wish to include the following in their diet to help manage gout:

A healthcare professional can advise people on how to modify their diet safely.

There are several types of medication a doctor may use to treat gout. These include:

A doctor may also recommend a person with gout make certain lifestyle changes, such as:

A person may also benefit from using ice packs on painful, swollen joints. The Arthritis Foundation recommends that a person place an ice pack on their joint for 20–30 minutes to help relieve pain from a gout flare.

It is best for a person to speak with their doctor if they notice any signs of gout. Without treatment, gout flares can occur more often and last longer. However, with treatment, people can effectively manage their gout symptoms.

People may mistake gout for other conditions with similar symptoms. It may help to speak with a doctor who specializes in gout, such as a rheumatologist, if a person is experiencing symptoms of the condition.

Individuals may also speak with their doctor about which treatments work best for their gout.

Gout is a form of arthritis. It can cause pain and inflammation in the affected joints. It occurs due to hyperuricemia, which can result from a high intake of foods containing purines.

Similarly, consuming high amounts of fructose-containing foods may increase a person’s chances of developing gout. People who have gout may find that fructose-rich foods and beverages trigger flares. In this case, they may try reducing their fructose intake and replacing fructose-rich foods with healthier alternatives.

It is best for a person to speak with their doctor if they notice any signs of gout. A doctor can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment.