Gout Diet: Should You Avoid Chocolate?

March 17, 2024

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Gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in joints, often the joint at the base of the big toe. It occurs when uric acid builds up in blood and causes urate crystals to deposit in the joints and tissues.

Chocolate is a beloved sweet treat around the world, prized for its rich flavor and smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture. But how does chocolate affect gout? Can chocolate cause gout flares or help relieve symptoms? As with many aspects of the gout diet, the role of chocolate is complicated.

How Does Chocolate Affect Uric Acid and Gout Risk?

Chocolate contains certain compounds, such as theobromine and oxalate, which may raise uric acid levels in the body and contribute to gout attacks. However, the type and amount of chocolate consumed makes a difference.

Dark chocolate and cocoa contain antioxidants called flavonoids which help lower inflammation and protect cells from damage. Moderate intake of dark chocolate may actually reduce the risk of recurrent gout attacks, according to some research.

On the other hand, milk chocolate is high in dairy sugars like lactose which increase uric acid production. Eating large quantities can promote inflammation and trigger painful gout symptoms. Those sensitive to chocolate may want to avoid overindulging.

Key Takeaways on Chocolate and Gout

  • Dark chocolate in moderation may lower uric acid and inflammation due to high flavonoid content.
  • Milk chocolate tends to be more problematic due to added milk sugars.
  • All types of chocolate can raise oxalate levels which influence gout risk.
  • Overconsumption of any chocolate can drive up purine and sugar intake, initiating gout flares.
  • Individual reactions vary; some experience worse symptoms from just a small treat.

So what do the experts say? Can gout patients safely indulge in the sweet temptation of chocolate? Here’s a deeper look at the research.

Multiple aspects of chocolate can influence gout in both positive and negative ways. To understand if chocolate causes gout, it helps to break it down into components:

Theobromine

Theobromine is an alkaloid compound abundant in cocoa beans and dark chocolate which affects uric acid clearance. Research shows it can both raise and lower uric acid blood levels depending on intake. Eating larger doses may enable uric acid excretion and improve gout status, while very high doses are more likely to cause adverse reactions.

Flavonoids

Cocoa beans and dark chocolate contain flavonoids which function as powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Studies indicate cocoa flavonoids can reduce inflammation associated with chronic gout and lessen the incidence of recurrent attacks. Blood measurements confirm dark chocolate’s ability to lower uric acid crystallization which drives gout flares.

Milk Content

The milk sugars naturally found in dairy products increase production of uric acid. Milk chocolate contains high levels of milk ingredients like lactose and whey which may trigger gout in those sensitive or prone to uric acid buildup. Many experts advise gout patients to minimize intake of milk chocolate.

Fat and Sugar

All types of chocolate also contain saturated fat and added sugars which drive up calorie counts. This stimulates purine metabolism and indirectly raises uric acid levels. Overdoing intake of fat and sugar can set the stage for higher gout risk.

Oxalates

Oxalate compounds bind to calcium and can form painful kidney stones in those prone to this condition. While oxalates are found at low levels in chocolate, eating large amounts may increase kidney stone incidence along with gout risk according to some sources.

So while moderate dark chocolate consumption seems reasonably safe per research, having too much chocolate of any kind can worsen gout in those with high baseline uric acid levels.

Best Type of Chocolate for Gout Relief

If you have gout but can’t resist an occasional chocolate fix, reach for a small serving of one of these low-risk options:

  • Dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content
  • Sugar-free dark chocolate
  • Cocoa powder without added sugars
  • Low or nonfat milk chocolate

Dark chocolate ranks as the best chocolate choice overall since the abundant cocoa flavanols offset sugar and milk. Stick to a 1-2 ounce portion around once per day.

Those who also struggle with diabetes or obesity should further limit chocolate intake and enjoy only small portions of low-sugar dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder infrequently.

Worst Type of Chocolate for Gout Sufferers

On the flip side, these high-risk chocolate products tend to promote higher uric acid levels and provoke gout attacks:

  • Milk chocolate or white chocolate
  • Chocolate bars with high sugar content
  • Sweet chocolate baked goods like cakes, cookies and candies
  • Chocolate with artificial trans fats or high fructose corn syrup
  • Large servings of any chocolate or cocoa product

As the sugar and dairy content goes up along with portion size, gout risk also rises. Since individual tolerance varies, start slowly when integrating chocolate in the diet and quickly stop any form that seems to worsen symptoms.

What Does the Research Say? Chocolate and Gout Evidence

While no long term trials exist yet, preliminary studies highlight dark chocolate’s potential to ease gout:

  • A 2018 pilot study had 20 gout patients consume 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of dark chocolate powder or milk powder daily. After just 15 days, the dark chocolate group experienced significantly lower blood measurements of uric acid crystallization compared to milk powder. An antioxidant effect was confirmed. (Source)
  • Another investigation gave patients cocoa powder enriched with polyphenols or a placebo powder. After 4 weeks, the cocoa group had substantially greater decreases in CRP inflammation biomarkers and frequency of acute gout attacks compared to placebo. (Source)
  • A 2017 review detailed how cocoa flavonoids called epicatechin can counter inflammation pathways underlying chronic gout. The author described dark chocolate intake as likely beneficial for long term management. (Source)

So science indicates dark chocolate might offer healing advantages—but experts caution gout patients not to overdo it due to differing individual tolerance.

Can You Eat Chocolate with Gout? How Much Is Safe?

Current U.S. Dietary Guidelines define moderate chocolate intake as 1.5 to 2 ounces per day or up to 200 calories as part of a balanced gout diet. This equals around:

  • 1-2 small squares of a chocolate bar
  • 4-6 chocolate kisses
  • Half a cupcake or small chocolate muffin

However, many gout experts recommend staying below 1 ounce of dark chocolate daily to avoid issues. For comparison:

  • Hershey’s Special Dark Fun Size Bar: 0.7 ounces
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar (small): 1.55 ounces

Everyone has unique biochemistry and reactions to chocolate. Start with just 1-2 bites first after a gout flare then slowly work up to find your personal tolerance if desired. Pay attention to servings sizes too—it’s easy to overeat chocolate!

5 Must-Know Facts about Chocolate for Gout Patients

Still unsure about mixing chocolate and gout? These myths and facts shed light on what research has discovered:

Myth #1: All chocolate raises uric acid

Fact: Dark varieties lower uric acid for many gout patients

Myth #2: Chocolate triggers gout flares

Fact: Only excessive intake prompts attacks

Myth #3: Milk chocolate worsens symptoms

Fact: High milk and sugar content inflame painful joints

Myth #4: Cocoa has no impact on gout

Fact: Flavonoids in cocoa fight inflammation

Myth #5: Chocolate effects are insignificant

Fact: Dark chocolate cuts recurrent gout rates

What If Chocolate Seems to Flare up Gout for You?

Again, reactions to chocolate can shift wildly between individuals depending on personal health status and genetics. Overdoing intake of any food is never advisable.

Yet for those who experience gout flares or pain after eating even tiny chocolate servings, an allergy or sensitivity may be to blame.

Milk chocolate and cocoa allergies can develop similarly to other food intolerances. Consuming offending compounds prompts release of histamines and other inflammatory chemicals that trigger uncomfortable symptoms like digestive issues, hives, migraine and joint swelling.

Try eliminating all forms of chocolate and cocoa from your diet for 3 weeks to see if gout improves. Slowly reintroducing dark chocolate while monitoring reactions can help determine if a true allergy exists.

See your doctor promptly if you suspect chocolate worsens your condition for guidance on proper diagnosis and management. Antihistamines may suppress allergic responses while supporting gut health and detoxification pathways may allow tolerance again.

The Bottom Line: Is Chocolate Good or Bad for Gout?

So what’s the final verdict on mixing this mouth-watering indulgence with a gout prone state? It depends—supporting research indicates dark chocolate is reasonably safe and even beneficial if intake remains moderate.

However, experts caution limiting total chocolate consumption to an ounce a day at most when managing serious gout. Prioritize cocoa-rich, low sugar varieties if opting to integrate treats as part of dietary guidelines.

While the odd small chocolate splurge likely won’t cause issues for many, individuals vary. Notice if any type triggers your symptoms, avoid those styles, and check with your healthcare provider if problems occur.

With smart restrictions and attention to reactions, most gout sufferers can work a little sweet chocolate into their menu plans without issue!

Frequently Asked Questions about Gout and Chocolate

Is dark chocolate good for gout?

Yes, dark chocolate may benefit some gout patients. Compounds in cocoa called flavonoids reduce inflammation and protect cells. Studies show dark chocolate intake lowers uric acid crystallization in the blood which causes gout flares. Limit to 1-2 ounces daily at most.

Can chocolate cause a gout attack?

Overeating chocolate of any kind can trigger painful gout attacks due to the sugar, milk, and fat content. Purines and oxalates in cocoa may also drive up uric acid levels. However, research suggests moderate dark chocolate consumption reduces recurrent gouts rates for many people.

Is it OK to eat chocolate with gout?

Having an occasional small treat of dark chocolate is normally fine for gout patients if they aren’t highly sensitive. However, limiting chocolate is smart to keep sugar, purines and uric acid intake in check. Notice if any type or amount worsens your symptoms then avoid it.

Can milk chocolate cause gout?

Yes, consuming substantial amounts of milk chocolate and cocoa may cause gout attacks. The high dairy content results in sugar molecules which boost uric acid production. This effect seems most significant for those already struggling to control high blood uric acid levels.

What chocolate is lowest in purines?

Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content ranks lowest in purines, assuming low or no sugar is also present. Compared to milk-based bars, dark chocolate better protects cells against damage due to high antioxidant levels according to studies.

In summary, key takeaways about chocolate and gout include:

  • Moderate dark chocolate intake likely benefits most gout patients thanks to helpful cocoa compounds
  • Added sugars and milk ingredients in milk chocolate promote higher uric acid and inflammation
  • Overindulging in any type of chocolate can trigger gout attacks in susceptible people
  • Research confirms dark chocolate helps lower painful recurrent gout incidence for many
  • Individual reactions vary; notice which types or serving sizes may worsen symptoms

Savor chocolate carefully in gout, but for most lovers of the sweet treat, moderate daily enjoyment won’t sabotage success!

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