Lifestyle Works

Purines and Gout

Gout is caused by needle-sharp crystals of uric acid in our joints. Uric acid comes from the breakdown of purines, which are the breakdown product of genetic material—DNA, the foundation of all life. It was long thought that people with gout just needed to stay away from all high-purine foods, whether from animals, like organ meats, or plants, like beans, but this strategy proved ineffective. Yes, all uric acid comes from the breakdown of purines, so limiting meat makes sense, but plant sources “have largely been exonerated.”

Alcohol intake is “strongly associated with an increased risk of gout.” An increased risk of gout with higher meat consumption or seafood consumption, has been established, but not with higher consumption of purine-rich plant foods.

Vegetarian gout sufferers are specifically told to stay away from—mushrooms, peas, beans, lentils, and cauliflower—but actually they are found to be protective. This may be because foods rich in fiber, folate, and vitamin C appear to protect against uric acid buildup and gout. Fiber, for example, has been recognized as having a potential role in binding uric acid in the gut for excretion.

By changing the pH of our urine, we can change uric acid clearance. Eating an alkaline diet, which is a vegetarian diet has been found to be effective for removing uric acid from the body. Those eating the alkaline diet excreted significantly more uric acid than those eating the acidic diet. As such, uric acid levels in the blood of those eating the acid-forming diet rose within days.

Researchers took ten men to study the build-up of uric acid in their kidneys, kept them on a standard Western diet for five days, and measured their relative super-saturation for uric acid. Then, they tried a vegetarian diet for five days. The result? Within days, the intake of the vegetarian diet led to a 93 percent decline in the risk of uric acid crystallization.

Not all animal foods increase gout risk, though. Low-fat dairy products were found to be protective. Given that, we would predict vegans to be at a disadvantage, which is indeed what was found, but in saying that, all groups tested—meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians, and vegans—were still within the normal range of around 3.5 to 7.

The bottom line is that those suffering with gout make the effort to reduce the risk  of gout without the use of drug treatments through modification of diet, or medication is the other option which can be toxic to the body.

— Michael Greger M.D. FACLM, September 6, 2018

Fennel Seeds for Nitrate Boost

Fennel seeds are often used as mouth fresheners after a meal in both the Indian sub-continent and around the world. You’ll typically see a bowl of fennel seeds, sometimes candy-coated, as you walk out of Indian restaurants. When you chew them, you can get a significant bump in nitric oxide production, which has the predictable vasodilatory effect of opening up blood vessels. This makes them a cheap and easy way to carry a lightweight, nonperishable source of nitrates. Researchers singled out mountaineers, thinking chewing fennel seeds could help maintain oxygen levels at high altitudes and help prevent HAPE—high altitude pulmonary edema—which is one of the leading killers of mountain climbers once you get more than a mile and a half or so over sea level.

 “Fennel has also shown antihirsutism activity,” combating excessive hair growth in women, the so-called bearded woman syndrome. Indeed, applying a little fennel seed cream can significantly reduce it.

If fennel seeds have such a strong hormonal effect, should we be worried about chewing them? There have been cases reported of premature breast development among young girls drinking fennel seed tea a couple times a day for several months. Their estrogen levels were elevated, but, after stopping the tea, their chests and hormone levels went back to normal.

Current guidelines recommend against prolonged use in vulnerable groups—children under 12 and pregnant and breast-feeding women—and perhaps your pet rat, as rodents metabolize a compound in fennel called estragole into a carcinogen, but our cells appear able to detoxify it.

– Taken from Michael Greger M.D. FACLM, September 11, 2018

Recipe of the Month

Broccoli and Red Capsicum
    2 T oil            
    6 cloves garlic, crushed            
    1½ t ginger, finely grated    
    1½ t soy sauce        
    1½ t tomato sauce or tomato paste        
    2 T fresh  coriander, chopped (opt)         
    1 large head broccoli cut into medium florets
    1 red capsicum, chopped                
    1 t salt    
Saute garlic and ginger. Add soy sauce and tomato sauce. Cook sauce for a few seconds on low heat. Add coriander, broccoli and capsicum. Stir fry for 5 min or until tender. Salt to taste.