Doubt for C and Gout

Doubt for C and Gout

New research suggests that vitamin C supplements do not help people who already have gout.

Alas, vitamin C would not have helped poor Falstaff.

Even if it was taken in iambic pentameter.

“A pox of this gout! or, a gout of this pox! For the one or the other plays the rogue with my great toe,” says Shakespeare's round knight in Henry IV. Nor, apparently, will C help anyone else suffering from gout, according to a new study from New Zealand noted in

A form of arthritis, gout occurs when uric acid acid forms crystals in the joints – often notably in the big toe. Uric acid is a waste product in the blood. Gout's been called “the disease of kings,” because of its association with gluttony and a rich diet, however, the kingly affliction has hit the serfs big time.

In the past half century the prevalence of gout in the general U.S. population has more than doubled, reports Scientific American. Gout now afflicts more than eight million American adults. About 3.9 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with the condition at some point. It's the most common inflammatory arthritis among men, according to the Center for Disease Control. Risk factors includes being overweight or obese, hypertension, high alcoholic intake (beer and spirits more than wine), use of diuretics and a diet rich in meat and seafood.

How does it feel? Check out this 1799 illustration featured in the New York Times last month of a fire-breathing gout demon sinking his (many) fangs into a swollen big toe.

The eight-week study of 40 patients with gout showed that a modest vitamin C dose for eight weeks did not lower urate levels to a clinically significant degree. The results differ from previous research which found that vitamin C reduced urate levels in healthy individuals without gout, but with high levels of uric acid (hyperuricemia). In fact, the new study found that reduction of uric acid was significantly less in gout patients taking vitamin C compared to those who started or increased their dose of allopurinol (a drug commonly prescribed for gout).

"Though vitamin C may reduce risk of developing gout, our data does not support using vitamin C as a therapy to lower uric acid levels in patients with established gout," lead author Lisa Stamp, of the University of Otago in Christchurch, New Zealand, told "Further investigation of the urate lowering effects of a larger vitamin C dose in those with gout is warranted," she said. The research is published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.

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