This page about coffee for gout was last reviewed, or updated, on 2 September 2015.
As long ago as 1652, London's first coffee house advertised coffee as a gout cure, and for other ailments. It's probable someone in those days had noticed something positive about coffee and gout. (There's a link to view this advert at the bottom of this article).
In our own times, five studies that show that coffee is good for the prevention of gout and/or lowering uric acid are described on this page. Note that in these studies, coffee is described as simply coffee - no distinction has been drawn as between roasted beans, ground, or instant. Nor between quality or brand names. So you can’t assume with certainty you'll get a better anti-gout performance from a certain type of coffee, although you might. The only explained difference is regular and decaffeinated.
These studies suggest that coffee for gout is a good idea, but not a brilliant one. No study has demonstrated coffee can end gout attacks for good, nor even reduce them. Nor has there been a gout and coffee study comparing, in a group of people through a specific period, what happens to their uric acid levels when they drink coffee, and when they don't.
If you don’t wish to read the article and its statistics carefully, a general conclusion is that you have to drink a lot of coffee a day to get a small reduction in your uric acid level, but that drinking coffee reduces the risk of gout by a useful degree.
Men might get a reduction of about 0.40 mg/dL, from four or more cups a day. In women the picture is less definite and they will probably achieve less reduction than men, although in one study they performed similarly. As a whole, women have lower uric acid levels than men.
To reach the critical 6.0 mg/dL level in men, and around 5.7 mg/dL in women, many gout sufferers will need to lower uric acid by 3.0 mg/dl or more. If coffee can do it by 0.40 mg/dL you can see this is a useful reduction, but not a gout killer.
How could coffee for preventing gout be a good idea? Coffee contains a strong antioxidant called chlorogenic acid. This antioxidant may be why four to six daily cups of coffee for gout prevention is a good idea. It's thought it might improve insulin sensitivity in those who suffer insulin resistance - a cause of gout. And perhaps coffee's xanthines and/or antioxidants inhibit uric acid production.
MALES OVER 40 (1)
Coffee for gout prevention among males over 40? The Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatism (June 2007) published the results of research (1) into the effects of drinking coffee on the risk for developing gout. It found a lowered risk if you drank coffee (or at least if you are a male over 40, the study universe).
The coffee and gout research was based on the Health Professionals Follow-Up study - a large, ongoing one of nearly 47,000 men of whom 757 (about 1.6%) developed gout over a 12 year period. It showed that the risk of developing gout fell as more coffee was drunk.
More specific conclusions were that drinking 1-3 cups of regular, not decaffeinated, coffee a day reduced the risk for gout by 8%, compared to those who didn't drink coffee,which is not much. But at four cups the reduced risk was 40%; at six or more the reduced risk was 59%, compared to zero coffee drinkers. It seems that coffee for gout works somewhat if you drink at least four cups a day, which is a realistic target.
59% is a large number, but so is six cups of coffee a day. How many will drink this much? Not many males over 40 who don’t have gout think much about it. Not many know much about gout, and not many are going to drink this much coffee. So this means this knowledge would be helpful mainly for men who fear gout because it runs in the family. i.e. men who know with more certainty that they have a risk of gout.
And useful for those who know they have hyperuricaemia (high uric acid), and what that means. So they know they may be on fate's shortlist for a gout attack.
Inconclusive about caffeine Those in the study who drank decaffeinated coffee - 1-3 cups lowered risk 33%; four cups lowered risk 27%. i.e 1-3 cups reduced risk more than the same amount of regular coffee but four cups did not.
The results for decaff coffee were inconclusive. Why should there be more lowered risk for gout (33%) from 1-3 daily cups than from four or more cups (27%)? After all, the risk was lowered from regular coffee by larger percentages if more coffee was drunk. What can be said with some confidence is that decaff lowers the risk to some extent.
And what if you do have gout? This coffee and gout study did not enquire into whether coffee can help cure gout. To do that, coffee intake compared to uric acid levels must be measured.
Niacin and gout - a note about niacin in espresso coffee Niacin is thought to compete with uric acid for excretion. In the USDA database instant coffee (regular or decaff) and coffee brewed from grounds, does not contain much niacin. But 6 fl.ozs of a restaurant espresso coffee (the kind listed in the USDA database) contains about 9 mg of niacin (nicotinic acid).
If you have six of those daily, that’s about 50 mg of niacin which is said should be the most niacin you should intake daily if you have gout. There is no niacin in brewed tea and very little in cocoa. Multivitamin supplements usually have around 20mg of niacin.
See the gout vitanutrients section to download the USDA database free, or check niacin in foods online at the USDA site through the link in the gout vitanutrients section.
Watch a video reporting on study (1) here, from www.insidermedicine.com. Please double click on the arrow to begin.
REDUCED RISK IN WOMEN
Women were not surveyed in the study described above, (1) but now read about a lowered risk of gout from drinking coffee in women. An analysis from the huge U.S. nurses study – almost 90,000 women.(2)
Women who drank one to four cups daily had less risk of getting gout than those who didn’t drink coffee; and women who drank five or more cups daily reduced their risk significantly more than those who drank one to four. Compared to women who didn't drink coffee, women who drank one to four cups daily had a 22% lower risk of gout, and if they drank five plus cups daily, the risk was 57% less.
Both this study and the one above, were large population studies of thousands of men and women to find out that the risk of getting gout is lowered by drinking coffee. Now what have coffee for gout studies that look at the relationship between coffee consumption and the uric acid level (UA) concluded? A high uric acid level is the cause of gout in most gout sufferers.
COFFEE LOWERS URIC ACID
In 2010 the Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism published a study into coffee consumption and uric acid levels in middle aged and elderly men and women in Japan (3).
In men it found the more coffee drunk, the lower the UA level. The study found that men who drank seven or more cups of coffee had lower uric acid levels of 0.37 mg/dL (or –0.27 mg/dL depending on the statistical adjustment), compared to men who didn’t drink coffee. However, seven cups a day is not a very realistic amount because most people only drink two or three cups daily.
But gout sufferers could probably be motivated to drink four if they thought this would have a useful effect on their uric acid level. So would this amount be worthwhile? In the men who drank four cups daily, the UA fell by 0.17 - 0.20 mg/dL - in one to three cups daily it fell less than this.
In men who drank four cups a day or more, the risk of hyperuricemia was 30% less compared to those men who didn’t drink coffee.
Corresponding figures for women were not as encouraging. On one adjusted statistic just 0.04 mg/dL lower and 0.10 mg/dL lower on another, in those drinking four plus a day compared to those who didn’t drink coffee. If you’re a woman who doesn’t like coffee much, it didn’t seem worth the effort of drinking a minimum of four cups a day, al least from this study’s results. But read on…
MEN AND WOMEN IN THE NHANES-III DATA
In 2006, an enquiry into the survey data of the NHANES III enquiry (4), found that in all participants (men and women) coffee drinkers supping six plus cups daily compared to those who didn’t drink coffee had a serum (blood) uric acid level of 0.43 mg/dL less. If they drank four or five cups daily it was 0.26 mg/dL less. Women’s results appeared the same as men, which is encouraging for women. The risk of hyperuricemia (high uric acid, the precursor of gout), in those who drank six+ cups a day was 43% less than those who didn’t drink coffee. This number could be applied to both men and women.
Four cups is a more realistic target since in the NHANES III study only 169 of 14,758 participants actually drank six+ cups of coffee a day.
How much coffee do you drink? Most people would have to raise their coffee-a-day bar even to drink four-a-day in the hope of getting some benefit from coffee for gout. Tea, black and green, had no effect on serum (blood) uric acid levels in this study.
THE FIRST COFFEE FOR GOUT STUDY
Probably the first study into coffee drinking and uric acid levels took place in 1999 (5). Researchers examined coffee and uric acid amongst 2,240 male members of the Japanese army, navy and air force who were about to retire. In this study, those who drank five cups a day had a 0.40 mg/dL lower uric acid level compared to those who drank less than a cup a day. Green tea had no downward effect on serum (blood) uric acid levels – tea (black tea) was not studied.
More studies on coffee for gout would be welcome. We need to find out precisely why uric acid levels fall a bit if you drink enough.
Tea, black and green has been found to lower uric acid, but inconsistently. Go to page 1 of our tea for gout pages.
Given that water and cherry juice are the best drinks for gout sufferers, how can you use this information about coffee for gout?
View the 1652 coffee for gout advertisement. And there's a modern English "translation."
Does caffeine, including the caffeine in green and (black) tea, affect uric acid levels? Find out here.
Coffee for gout references
(1) Coffee Consumption and Risk of Incident Gout in Men. Hyon K. Choi, Walter Willett, and Gary Curhan.Arthritis & Rheumatism,Vol. 56, No. 6, June 2007, pages 2049–2055.
(2) Abstract. Coffee consumption and risk of incident gout in women: the Nurses’ Health Study Hyon K.Choi, Gary Curhan.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition October 2010 vol.92 no. 4 922-927.
(3) The Relation of Coffee Consumption to Serum Uric Acid in Japanese Men and Women Aged 49–76 Years. Ngoc Minh Pham, Daigo Yoshida, Makiko Morita, Guang Yin, Kengo Toyomura, Keizo Ohnaka, Ryoichi Takayanagi, and Suminori Kono Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism Volume 2010, Article ID 930757, 7 pages.
(4) Coffee, tea, and caffeine consumption and serum uric acid level: the third national health and nutrition examination survey. Choi HK, Curhan G. Arthritis & Rheumatism (Arthritis Care & Research) Vol. 57, No. 5, June 15, 2007, pp 816–821.
(5) Inverse association between coffee drinking and serum uric acid concentrations in middle-aged Japanese males. Kiyohara C, Kono S, Honjo S, Todoroki I, Sakurai Y, Nishiwaki M, Hamada H, NishikawOgawa S, Nakagawa Ka H, Koga H. British Journal of Nutrition. 1999 August; 82(2):125-30.