Take Your Vitamin C

A report published in March 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine states that men with a higher intake of vitamin C appear to have a lower incidence for developing gout, an excruciating form of arthritis. The most common type of inflammatory arthritis affecting men is gout, and the study's authors say that epidemiological studies prove the disease is becoming more widespread than ever. "The identification of the risk factors for gout that are modifiable with available measures is an important first step in the prevention and management of this common and excruciatingly painful condition," says the report.

Twenty Years

Boston University School of Medicine's Hyon K. Choi, M.D., Dr. P.H., at the time of the study with the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, along with his colleagues, analyzed the relationship between vitamin C intake and gout in 46, 994 men over a 20 year period, from 1986-2006. The participants completed a questionnaire about their diet every 4 years during this period. The researchers calculated the men's total vitamin C intake from food sources and supplements. Every two years, the participants reported on whether they had been diagnosed as having gout, or had developed symptoms of gout.

Out of the total group of participants, 1,317 men developed gout over these two decades. It was found that men with a vitamin C intake of 500-999 milligrams daily had a 17% lower risk for developing gout than did those taking less than 250 milligrams a day. Those men with an intake of 1,000-1,499 milligrams per day had lowered their risk by 34% and those with an intake of 1,500 milligrams a day or higher reduced their risk by 45%. The researchers realized that for every 500 milligram increase in vitamin C intake, the risk of gout for the men was reduced by a further 17%.

Take Supplements

When researchers compared men who took vitamin C supplements to men whose only vitamin C intake was found in dietary sources, they discovered that those men who took 1,000-1,499 milligrams of supplemental vitamin C every day had a 34% lower risk of gout, and those who took 1,500 supplemental milligrams of daily vitamin C lowered their risk by 45%.

Gout occurs as a response to exaggerated levels of uric acid in the blood, which forms crystals in and around joints. This is the cause of the pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with gout. Vitamin C seems to reduce the levels of blood uric acid, note the authors of the study. The authors theorize that vitamin C may change the way the kidneys react to uric acid, perhaps by increasing the speed at which they are able to work against or prevent inflammation. All of these theories would work to explain how vitamin C protects the body against gout.

The authors conclude, "Given the general safety profile associated with vitamin C intake, particularly in the generally consumed ranges as in the present study [e.g., tolerable upper intake level of vitamin C of less than 2,000 milligrams in adults according to the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine], vitamin C intake may provide a useful option in the prevention of gout."