Ice Cream & Gout

Vanilla ice cream
A large bowl of vanilla ice cream. (Image: Lisovskaya/iStock/Getty Images)

For anyone who grew up reading the literature of previous centuries, gout has an old-fashioned ring to it, like consumption or "la grippe." Unfortunately, this painful and debilitating form of arthritis is still very much with us. Gout has traditionally been associated with rich foods, and many fatty foods such as ice cream can trigger attacks.

About Gout

Gout is a debilitating inflammatory disease, one of the several forms of arthritis. Acute gout causes painful attacks in a specific joint at sporadic intervals. Chronic gout causes ongoing, continuous pain and inflammation in multiple joints. It is caused by accumulation of uric acid in the body. Eventually, uric acid deposits itself as crystals in your joints. The root causes of gout are not clear, but it is known to run in families and mainly affect men. African-American men are more prone to gout than Caucasians, and postmenopausal women are at higher risk than younger women.

Dietary Triggers

It is possible to have high levels of uric acid in the blood without suffering an attack of gout. However, there are many dietary factors known to aggravate gout or trigger attacks. Alcohol consumption is one known factor -- beer and spirits are especially problematic. So are foods that contribute uric acid to the bloodstream, for example, anchovies, organ meats, lobster, mackerel and scallops. Rich foods high in fats should also be avoided since they can trigger attacks. This last group includes most sweet desserts, including ice cream.

Ice Cream and Gout

Ice cream is seldom made with direct gout triggers such as lobster or anchovies, but its fat content is of concern. Ice cream contains a large percentage of fat from cream and eggs; quality, premium brands are usually higher in fat than mainstream brands. Many common ice cream ingredients, including chocolate, caramel sauce, cream cheese and nuts, contribute to the fat level. If you eat ice cream for dessert after a rich meal or one that contains other gout triggers, you may be setting yourself up for a painful gout attack.

Alternatives

Even if ice cream is your major dietary weakness, you still have alternative options. One is to reduce your portion size, or only eat ice cream on days when your fat consumption is otherwise low. Ice milk and low-fat ice cream are alternative choices and provide most of the same flavor but with lower quantities of fat. You might also opt for frozen yogurt, which is usually lighter than ice cream. Bear in mind that there can be wide variations in the nutritional value and fat content from one brand to another, so be diligent about reading the labels and choosing brands with lower fat.

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