Eating cherries can reduce the risk of gout attacks in people with the disease by more than a third, a study has revealed.
Scientists observed 633 gout patients for a year and found that cherry consumption over two-day periods affected the likelihood of attacks.
Patients who ate as many as three servings of fresh cherries or who ate cherry extract were 35 per cent less at risk than those who avoided cherries.
A serving was defined as one half-cupful, or 10 to 12 cherries.
Previous studies have suggested that chemicals in the fruit reduce blood levels of uric acid.
Gout is caused by uric acid crystallising in the joints, causing excruciating pain and swelling.
When cherry intake was combined with the uric acid-lowering drug allopurinol, gout flare-ups were reduced by 75 per cent compared with having no exposure either to the drug or cherries.
The study was reported in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.
Lead researcher Professor Yuqing Zhang, from Boston University in the US, said: “Our findings indicate that consuming cherries or cherry extract lowers the risk of gout attack. The gout-flare risk continued to decrease with increasing cherry consumption, up to three servings over two days.”
Eating more than three servings of cherries had no further benefit.
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said: “It has been thought for some time that some fruits, in particular cherries, may have benefits for diseases such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis which are characterised by chronic inflammation.
“It has been suggested that antioxidant compounds found in cherries may be natural inhibitors of enzymes which are targeted by common anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.
“This study provides good evidence to suggest that cherry intake, combined with traditional uric acid-reducing drugs, can significantly reduce the risk of painful gout attacks.
“Eating cherries, in fact, is not dissimilar to taking ibuprofen on a daily basis.”