diet & nutrition

What are purines?

Purines are natural substances found in all of the body’s cells, and in virtually all foods. A relatively small number of foods however contain concentrated amounts of purine and they include organ meats like kidney, fish like mackerel, herring, sardines and mussels, and also yeast.

Uric acid is the chemical formed when purines have been broken down completely. Uric acid serves as an antioxidant and helps prevent damage to our blood vessel linings. Uric acid levels in the blood and other parts of the body can become too high. When uric acid accumulates, uric acid crystals can become deposited in our tendons, kidneys and other organs. This accumulation of crystals is called gouty arthritis, or simply “gout”.

What has research shown?

Recent research by Choi has shown that the impact of plant purines on gout risk is very different from the impact of animal purines and that within the animal food family, purines from meat and fish act very differently than purines from dairy. Research has demonstrated that purines from meat and fish clearly increase our risk of gout, while purines from vegetables fail to change our risk. Dairy foods actually appear to lower our risk of gout.

While research in this area is not conclusive, many health care practitioners suggest screening for purine metabolism problems whenever confronted with other problems, particularly in children and infants. Problems include anaemia, failure to thrive, autism, cerebral palsy, deafness, epilepsy, susceptibility to recurrent infection, and the inability to walk or talk.

What can I do to help myself?

If you have been asked to follow a strict, low purine diet because of gouty arthritis, you’ll want to follow your GP’s advice and are likely to be asked to limit your consumption of animal foods, fish and lentils. You’ll be eating these foods in cooked form anyway.

Source: 2014