A form of arthritis characterized by intense, sudden pain in the joints, gout was once considered a "rich man's disease" resulting from a heavy diet and inactivity. Today researchers know that a high level of uric acid crystals in the joints causes gout's symptoms -- redness, swelling, tenderness and acute pain -- and that uric acid is created when the body breaks down chemicals called purines. Certain seafoods are high in purines, while others, like Atlantic salmon, have nutritional benefits that may outweigh their risk to gout sufferers. Carefully managing your consumption of Atlantic salmon may help reduce your risk of developing gout or experiencing recurring outbreaks.
Atlantic Salmon and Purines
Some fish and shellfish are very high in purines, such as anchovies, mackerel, sardines, scallops, mussels and lobster. Gout sufferers should avoid consuming high-purine species whenever possible, but lower-purine fish -- such as Atlantic salmon -- is suitable for a gout-friendly diet. To reduce the chance of flare-ups, it's best to eat seafood rarely. A 2004 study in the "New England Journal of Medicine" found that each additional weekly serving of fish or shellfish increased middle-aged men's risk of developing gout by 7 percent.
Don't eliminate heart-healthy Atlantic salmon from your diet completely. The USDA's dietary guidelines encourage Americans to increase their overall consumption of seafood from the current average of just 3.5 ounces a week. For an active adult on a 2,000 calorie-per-day plan, the USDA recommends eating 6 ounces of lean protein per day. To reduce the chance of gout attacks, limit your consumption of meat, poultry or seafood to 4 to 6 ounces daily.
Atlantic salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat that is essential for overall health. Researchers believe omega-3s may help lower blood pressure or high triglycerides, reduce your chance of heart attack and stroke, and slow the progress of age-related conditions like macular generation. A 3.5 ounce serving of salmon contains about 1 gram of omega-3s. In addition, salmon provides a source of lean protein that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Atlantic salmon is relatively low in mercury and PCBs, so it does not pose a health risk to gout sufferers who choose to eat it frequently. The Seafood Watch program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, however, urges consumers to avoid farmed Atlantic salmon. The methods used to manage and harvest salmon in ocean-based net pens have a deleterious effect on the surrounding marine environment. As an alternative, consumers may choose wild-caught Alaskan or Pacific salmon.