Is Seafood Safe To Eat If You Have Gout?

In this post we will closely examine if seafood like lobster, shrimp, crab, clams, oysters, mussels, scallops are a healthy choice for a gout diet. As always, let’s talk a little history beforehand. In the 1800s lobster was known as poor man’s food and during that time and before seafood was shunned upon and people were embarrassed to eat it.

Poor families, servants, children and prisoners usually ate seafood due to its high abundance and easy accessibility for those who lived on the eastern coast like the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The wealthier people were able to afford healthier meats like cattle and beef but seafood like lobster were seen by the poor as a cheap way to feed hungry mouths, they even had nicknames like “Poor Man’s Chicken” and “Scavengers of the Sea”.

It is actually a scavenger because it lives on the bottom of the ocean and eats the waste, yes the poop of other animals even the pollutants that man dumps into the ocean, hence why lobster is also nicknamed “the Cockroach of the Ocean”.  By the late 1800s the industry was thriving and seafood hit the mainstream where it was being served at the fanciest restaurants. Today lobster is one of the most expensive items on the menu and the perception is that seafood is high quality and nutritious food!

Tart Cherry Extract for Gout

What is the evidence that seafood is to be avoided in a gout diet?

The 12 year study completed by the American College of Rheumatology which observed 47,000 men over that period had provided these men with a questionnaire to record their daily food intake. Data from the study discovered that men who ate the most meat had 1.41 times the risk of developing gout then those men who ate the least amount of meat.

Likewise, men who ate seafood had a 1.51 times the risk of developing gout compared to those men who ate the least amount of seafood and seafood does increase your uric acid levels. That’s a 51% increased risk my fellow gout sufferer! Each additional weekly serving of seafood led to a 7% increased risk. On a side-note, the same study concluded that vegetables high in purines like peas, beans, cauliflower and spinach did not increase the risk of getting a gout attack. That is spot on, you can eat all the vegetables you like even the ones that are high on the purines scale but we will look at this more closely at a future post.

Other risks of seafood consumption

Seafood is a simply a dangerous food to eat for so many valid reasons and should be avoided at all costs. It is simply one of the dirtiest foods you can eat and can cause you so many different ailments.  I mean the reason lobster is cooked while alive is due to the bacterial problem which takes place immediately upon their death needing to release astaxanthin for it to be safe for you to consume.

Shrimp is a scavenger that thrives off of eating the flesh of dead creatures, so if you like to eat shrimp be aware that you are eating feces as well. You like shellfish? Watch out cause you can be poisoned a bacterial or viral contamination. You must adequately cook it to make sure you don’t get sick but is it really worth the risk? Poisoning can also come about from heat-stable toxins derived from the food that the shellfish have been eating. If you suffer from gout, just cross out any type of seafood, I hope to help you avoid any gout flares or triggers for an attack.

Reasons to avoid Shellfish

  • Shellfish can’t expel waste efficiently:
    Shellfish have a simplified digestive system that makes it difficult for them to expel their waste products efficiently. This is why it’s so critical to devein a shrimp before eating it so you can remove the sand, debris, and other waste substances.

    Not only that, but shellfish are increasingly being contaminated by tiny plastic particles that shed off from nets, buoys, and ropes and onto the seafloor. These tiny bits of plastic are known as microplastics and can move through wastewater and into the ocean, where they may be consumed by animals.

    Microplastics can build up in animals that later become food for humans as a result of this. According to a study at the University of Ghent in Belgium, researchers found that seafood eaters consume up to 11,000 microscopic fragments of plastic each year.

  • The Omega-3 illusion:
    Essential fatty acids are needed by our cell membranes, brain, and nervous system. Blood pressure, blood coagulation, and immunological and inflammatory responses are all aided by them.
    In our bodies, fatty acids are converted to the longer-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3 oils are typically touted as being very beneficial in the treatment of gout.

    They lower blood cholesterol and suppress eicosanoids, which cause clots and inflammation. In addition to helping promote a healthy cardiovascular system, omega-3s also provide benefits for our bones and joints.

    Oily fish have them as well, which they get from algae. Because conversion rates in the body can be low, some people believe that fish oils are essential for good health.

    They’re labeled as being ‘essential’ since humans can’t create them ourselves and must obtain them from food.

    However, according to several research, fatty fish and fish oil supplements, in particular, can have the opposite impact of what is stated. In fact, the same studies suggested that these essential fatty acids may actuallly raise the risk of cardiovascular events.

  • Mercury is rising:
    Mercury, a naturally occurring heavy metal in rock, is primarily released into the environment through human processes such as the combustion of fossil fuels. Mercury enters our waterways and accumulates in the marine food chain.
    Small fish and shellfish used to be regarded as being low in mercury, while big, long-lived predator fish like king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, ahi (or yellowfin) tuna, and bigeye tuna accumulate the most mercury.

    However, shellfish are now considered to have excessive levels of mercury. Mercury levels in tuna are 10 million times higher than in seawater, according to MIT researchers, and human activities since the Industrial Revolution are to blame.

    Of course, humans are a part of that food chain as well. We ingest the mercury that has accumulated in those large, long-lived predator fish when we eat them.

    Over time, regular consumption of mercury can potentially lead to serious health problems like damaged organs, cardiovascular disease, and neurological damage to developing kids.

  • Cholesterol and Saturated Fat:
    It’s vital to keep in mind that fish oils and oily fish are not the same thing. According to a study by John Mcdougall, fish is rich in cholesterol. Compared to other meats, many types of fish measured pretty high with a base of 100 grams.
    Protein-rich fish like sardines and roe also contribute to increasing your uric acid levels, which is a byproduct of protein metabolism and the cause of gout.

    Shellfish, in particular, are known for their high cholesterol levels. A single serving of shrimp includes more than half of the daily cholesterol allowance. Crabs contain about 565 milligrams of sulfur and are also high in purines, with about 175.4 milligrams of uric acid.

  • Norovirus and other illnesses:
    Filter-feeding shellfish, such as mussels and oysters, can accumulate bacteria and viruses from their environment, posing a direct health risk when eaten raw. In addition to increasing the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses like E. Coli and Hepatitis E, you can also catch Norovirus.
    Norovirus is a common cause of food poisoning that can induce fever, nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea.

    Because it is more common in the winter, it is also known as the winter vomiting bug, though it can be caught at any time of year.

    Norovirus infections are easily transmitted from person to person or by contacting surfaces that have been infected with the virus and then touching your mouth.

    Many outbreaks have been related to shellfish that have been contaminated by human feces. Norovirus contamination of bivalve shellfish, particularly oysters, has been identified as a food safety concern.

    Hepatitis E, on the other hand, is widespread in many underdeveloped nations, where it is transmitted by feces and the mouth. Because of greater infrastructure, water supply, and cleanliness, outbreaks are generally infrequent in developed countries.

    Pigs, for example, can serve as reservoirs. Pig unit effluent and dung have been discovered to contain high quantities. This emphasizes the risk of it entering waterways and subsequently accumulating in shellfish.

    Animal excrement, sewage water, improperly treated water, contaminated seafood, and animal foods have all been shown to contain the infectious hepatitis E virus.

    It is abundantly clear that shellfish and excrement seem to make frequent contact. Needless to say, that fact alone should raise a big enough red flag!

  • Shellfish and allergies:
    Shellfish is one of the most prevalent foods to cause allergies, and sensitivity to them is widespread over the world. Although most significant food allergies start in childhood, one in particular stands out: shellfish allergies.
    An allergy to shellfish can appear at any point in a person’s life, but it is most common in maturity. It can be triggered by meals that you’ve never had any problems with previously.

    Shellfish allergies are the most prevalent adult-onset food allergies, along with fish allergies. According to a recent survey, more than 6.5 million persons in the United States have allergies to one or both of these foods.

    In other aspects, a shellfish allergy is distinct from other allergies. Allergies to shellfish, for example, might strike at any moment after a person has consumed the allergen and displayed no other symptoms.

    Allergic reactions to shellfish can worsen with each exposure. To make matters worse, there is no cure for shellfish allergies. Avoiding foods like shrimp, lobster, crab, and other crustaceans is the best treatment.

    Although finned fish and shellfish are unrelated, cross-contamination is common. If you have a severe shellfish allergy, you may wish to avoid seafood entirely.


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    52 replies to "Gout and Seafood"

    • […] in high-end restaurants! But just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Studies have found that gout patients who ate seafood had were at more risk for developing gout. This risk […]

    • […] between the two is how they affect the body. Purines found in certain meats, organ meats, and seafood are the top suspected culprits for gout attacks and avoiding these food items can greatly reduce […]

    • Alice Ray

      I am hoping you will tell me I can eat Blue Gill , Crappie, and white Bass they are all caught in a local pond. Please please and button mushrooms!


      • Spiro Koulouris

        Hi Alice!

        Yes fish with scales are not seafood like lobsters, shrimp, crabs, octopus etc… and are the healthiest fish to eat coming from fresh waters and oceans. So enjoy your Bluegill, Crappie and white Bass fish!

        As for button mushrooms, yeah they are fine, I eat them.

    • Mal

      The Health Professonals study referred to defines seafood as “tuna; dark fish; other fish; and shrimp, lobster, or scallops”. So, really, to be as sure as you can be about not increasing your risk of getting gout you should avoid all these, which includes salmon, as it is categorised under “other fish”. Then you need to think & study hard to see how you can get all the health benefits of salmon from vegetable sources… if that’s possible…

    • Thomas Altman

      Hi–How about Mahi Mahi? I can’t seem to find anything about it.

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Hi Thomas!

        Yes Mahi-mahi is a fish with scales and fins. Like and fish I recommend you eat not more then 10% of your daily calories as protein intake. Too much protein is what gets you in trouble with gout, so eat moderately.

    • Eric O.

      Hi Spiro, Really appreciate your insights and wisdom on gout. Been suffering for many years, but with only a few bouts a year. Any ideas about swordfish? I just read recently that an adult swordfish does not have scales, it does have scales before it reaches adulthood. Should it be avoided?

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Hi Eric!

        If you really enjoy it, you can have it once in a while. Everybody indulges in their favourite food once in a while. I just had a 100% beef burger yesterday for the first time in maybe 5-6 months. It’s the habitual bad eating habits that will get you into trouble. As for swordfish it shouldn’t be an issue. Keep it in moderation and never more than 4 to 6 ounces in a meal.

    • Emma

      Hi there, I live in Australia and have a Pacific Island background….I know that many of my fellow country(island)men/women suffer from gout when eating shellfish. I am one. I get it when I eat prawns (shrimp) or even sometimes too much tomato. I still eat them though (very small quantities and once in a while) and I’m safe. However recently we boiled up a whole lot of raw prawn heads during Xmas to make stock. Do you know if I can use that to make a soup which I can eat?

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Nope! Just like claw chowder soup is dangerous for your gout so is a prawn soup. Any type of seafood eaten raw, boiled, cooked etc…or in a soup like you mentioned can get you into trouble. Tread carefully my friend!

    • Ed

      I know crawfish is a shellfish but it is also a fresh water shellfish. Does the same thing apply for gout. Asking for a nephew.

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Hi Ed!

        Yes it applies to any shellfish, it doesn’t matter if it comes from fresh water or not.

    • Travis Stephens

      Some fish from the sea are not considered seafood to you? That’s disturbing coming from someone giving advice on a suggested diet for people with gout. Seafood by definition includes edible marine fish and shellfish….. I think most of your advice is well founded, but fish like grouper and flounder are absolutely considered seafood.

    • Georgia

      I have been diagnosed with gout following cancer treatment. I have given up meat completely and would like to know if squid is safe to eat. Also is soy like tofu safe to eat?

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Hi Georgia!

        Yes skip the squid it’s an offensive food to gout sufferers cause it’s in the seafood category. Tofu is vegetarian so it is fine. Good luck!

        • Jim Orr

          I have stayed away from all shell fish and cut way back on red meat. With that being said I have not had a flare up in some time. We are going to a clam bake this weekend. I know there is a risk of a flare up if I partake but I’m wondering if the risk is reduced because I have not had any shell fish for a long time. I am also wondering if eating the chicken, corn and other vegetables from the bake create the same risk?

          • Spiro Koulouris

            Hi Jim!

            I eat chicken breast, corn and all vegetables. Always bake, boil or BBQ, never fry or stir-fry.

    • Bas

      I am not a big fan of seafood in general. Once in a while I eat the small canned Tuna Fish. I get symptoms or onset of a gout attack next day. I can relate it to eating the tuna fish. Eating this is often overlooked as something that would cause your body to have high uric acid. I can recall several times before the same happened to eating canned tuna fish. The quantity of the small can is not that much 140 grams. If I eat half the can it does not cause an issue at the time. I can tolerate eating more quantity of other seafood. It would be a good idea to avoid it when you are having a gout attack.

    • Wayne H Morgan

      I have had gout for over 20 years. My experience is all shell fish ( shrimp, lobsters, clams, …) cause a serious gout flare. Less than 12 hours after eating shrimp I will be hobbled in a joint for a couple of weeks. I am able to eat fish. I like a mild fish. I eat tilapia, orange roughy or even catfish with no effects.

    • […] list of foods to avoid but foods that are high in purines include meat such as beef, lamb and pork; seafood such as any type of shellfish and organ meats like liver, kidneys and heart. The list includes […]

    • Daniel

      Also, read up on tuna and mercury: no need irresponsibly bashing an industry and claiming you know, because you apparently do not: “No consumption advice is necessary for the top ten seafood species that make up about 80% of the seafood sold in the United States: canned tuna, shrimp, pollock, salmon, cod, catfish, clams, flatfish, crabs, and scallops.

      The methylmercury in these species is generally less than 0.2 ppm, and few people eat more than the suggested weekly limit of fish (i.e., 2.2 pounds).” -CDC (and that’s out of a 650 page report from a decade-long study)

    • Daniel

      Actually, you can’t just blanket it all under one thing. Seafood is defined as food from the sea, i.e. fish, shellfish and other sea life that is eaten by humans. Also, you are wrong about which to eat, many of the crustaceans and shellfish are actually lower in purines than many fin fish, like trout vs. oysters. Oysters have much lower purine levels and many other health benefits. You should know what you are talking about if you want to address diet and gout. Here is a helpful list. Note that uric acid and purine levels can be affected by more than just diet and there are other gout contributing factors in diet other than purine levels. Thyroid issues, for example, can increase the liklihood of gout.

      • Daniel

        At the bottom of the list on the link are three groupings; A, B and C. Eat a balanced diet from mostly A, some B and avoid C.

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Let’s agree to disagree. Many studies have shows how they raise uric acid levels and overall they are not healthy for you, all types of seafood causes more emergency room visits then any other food group. All this from the bacteria that these shells carry and if not cooked properly basically leads to food poisoning. Trout for examples has more nutrients then oysters so is more healthy for you.

        • nic

          What’s your take on typical Japanese diet which often consist of raw seafood like sushi/sashimi? More people with gout and emergency room visits for the japanese?

          • Spiro Koulouris

            Seafood is seafood. Raw, boiled or cooked it will raise uric acid levels.

            • nic

              Hi–thanks for your reply. From your earlier comment “…All types of seafood causes more emergency room visits then any other food group. All this from the bacteria that these shells carry and if not cooked properly basically leads to food poisoning” so I was actually asking what’s your take on a typical japanese diet which more often contains raw seafood base on your above comment?


            • Spiro Koulouris

              Japanese diet consists if mostly raw fish like salmon for example which is great for your health, I know about the “blue zones” and there is a part of Japan where people live longer than average due to eating mostly a complex carb diet like I outline here on this website and my book, and they get mostly their protein from raw fish but seafood will raise uric acid levels, so if I were you I’d take out the seafood and stick to raw fish preferably but overall the Japanese diet minus the seafood is a good diet to follow. Again very similar to what I outline here.

    • […] and trans fat. Saturated fat comes mostly from animal sources of food like red meat, chicken, seafood and dairy products like cheese and butter. Saturated fat increases total cholesterol and LDL which […]

    • JUN

      What About Tuna is it Safe to eat for a gout patient?

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Yes it is but problem with tuna is the high mercury count. Since tuna fish live longer than other fish, they accumulate more mercury than other fish, so that can be potentially dangerous. I personally avoid tuna now since it has a high mercury count.

    • […] on this website and my eBook by limiting red meats, poultry and other meats. Avoid organ meats and seafood entirely. You want to avoid excessive protein intake since it will worsen your gout. Zero tolerance […]

    • Maryann

      Hi Spiro!

      My husband has had many gout-like symptons but the doctor thinks he has Socratic arthritis.

      It is said that his grandfather had gout.

      His gout levels are moderately high. The reason the doctor steers away from gout is because it started in his ankle, this last bout started in his toe…

      We are going to do a gout test and see if he has a reaction to eating shrimp. Do you know how quickly it will turn into painful gout?

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Hi Maryann!

        Thanks for your comment but I have no idea since everybody reacts differently. I wouldn’t be able to tell you unfortunately.

    • Rachel Koo

      can gout patient eat shrimp?

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Sorry Rachel but no.

        Shrimp will raise your uric acid levels.

    • Lou

      You say it’s okay to eat certain fish.
      But then you say to stay away from seafood?
      Which one is it ?
      Stay away from all seafood or just shellfish seafood?

      • Spiro Koulouris

        Avoid seafood and any type of shellfish Lou!

        • JBM

          You say any fish with scales is ok, but then you say avoid all seafood. Which is it?

          • Spiro Koulouris

            Seafood is not considered fish with fins and scales. Avoid all seafood, it is one of the worst offenders for gout. You can eat fish like bass, salmon, cod, bluefish, haddock, grouper, halibut, snapper, tilapia, turbot, trout. These are all healthy fish that have fins and scales. Enjoy!

            • simon kelly

              Spiro, I think you’re confusing the issue here. Seafood includes all animals we eat from the sea – including shellfish. Here’s a definition: ‘Seafood is any form of sea life regarded as food by humans. Seafood prominently includes fish and shellfish. Shellfish include various species of molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms’ s this is primarily a post about Gout and seafood I would be very careful not replace shellfish (high in purines,bad for gout) with seafood (includes fish which are not bad for gout – although there are other reasons not to eat some fish due to mercury levels, sustainability concerns and so on).

            • nic

              simon–thanks for clarifying as i always thought seafood is all food products come from the sea.


            • Travis Stephens

              I’m thinking he may have just meant “seafood” for the purpose of this article. At any rate, seafood is food from the sea, regardless of what expensive college professors may try to rewrite it as. Let’s not corrupt the definition for personal agendas, like so many other things these days.

    • […] meat from the forbidden foods of lobster, crab, shrimp and other seafood for us gout sufferers. See my post on gout and seafood for more information. So don’t worry, glucosamine isn’t likely to increase uric acid levels or […]

    • […] Avoid this food like the plague […]

    • […] shrimp, lobster and other shellfish which raises uric acid and is simply not healthy for you. See my post on seafood to learn more. What you want to do is eat fish with scales and only eat these types of fish. Nothing else. You […]

    • […] Seafood like shrimp, lobster, crab and shellfish can be very appealing to the eye but it’ll get you into trouble. Please avoid it! […]

    • […] in the highest percentiles compared to the lowest and the subjects who ate the most shellfish/seafood compared to the lowest had a higher prevalence to develop gout. In addition, those subjects who ate […]

    • […] 1. Limit meat, poultry, fish and nuts to 10% of your daily protein calories. Remember to strictly avoid seafood, you can read more about it here. […]

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