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Citric Acid and Gout

author image Michelle Kerns
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.
Citric Acid and Gout
An overhead view of a fresh fruit salad high in Vitamin C and citric acid. Photo Credit baibaz/iStock/Getty Images

People who have gout develop uric acid crystals in their joints that cause swelling, redness and pain. Uric acid-lowering medications and a diet low in purine-rich foods are the two primary treatments. The NYU Langone Medical Center reports that supplementing with some natural compounds may also help. Citric acid is not considered a treatment for gout, but foods containing the compound may be beneficial. Ask your doctor or a dietitian for help designing a balanced, low-purine diet to deal with gout symptoms.

Effect of Citric Acid on Gout

According to physician and columnist Paul Donohue, the citric acid found in fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits does not affect your body's level of uric acid and will not worsen gout symptoms. It also does not appear to have a preventative effect against gout. Supplementing with citric acid may, however, help prevent the formation and growth of kidney stones. Individuals with kidney stones are often placed on the same low-purine diet as gout patients.

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Effect of Vitamin C on Gout

While the citric acid in citrus fruits doesn't help treat gout, the vitamin C -- also known as ascorbic acid -- found in those same fruits might be an effective treatment. A study published in "Arthritis and Rheumatism" in 2005 found that people supplementing with 500 milligrams of vitamin C each day for two months experienced a significant reduction in their blood levels of uric acid. Additionally, a 2009 "Archives of Internal Medicine" study determined that men who have a higher intake of vitamin C are less likely to develop gout as they age.

Purine Content

All citric acid-rich fruits are recommended on a gout diet because they are low in the purine compounds that the body breaks down into uric acid. Low-purine items are defined as those that have 50 milligrams of purines or less in every 100 grams of the food. Citrus fruits have an extremely small purine concentration. An orange, for example, has only 19 milligrams of purines per 100 grams. Foods with a moderate level of purines include meat, poultry, beans, legumes and certain vegetables. Organ meats; shellfish, like mussels; and game meats are high in purines.

Recommended Intake

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center advises gout patients to consume two to four servings of fruits each day, including those rich in citric acid. A typical fruit serving is equivalent to 1 cup of sliced fruit, a medium-sized piece of whole fruit, 1/2 cup of dried fruit or 1 cup of 100 percent fruit juice. Choose fresh fruit or fruit canned in pure fruit juice over processed, sweetened fruit products. Eat more whole fruit than fruit juice, which has more calories and less fiber per serving.

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