Are Tomatoes Bad For Gout?
Gout, a painful form of arthritis that is easily triggered by certain foods and alcohol, affects more than nine million Americans. A gout flare-up, if left untreated, may cause irreversible joint damage. So, if you’ve been diagnosed with gout or suspect you have it, it’s critical to understand which foods may cause flare-ups.
Most people associate gout with fat-laden meats. While red meat and organ meats may cause flare-ups, other seemingly healthy foods, such as tomatoes, may also cause gout flare-ups in some people.
We all eat tomatoes, we either eat them fresh in a salad, God knows I love my Greek salad, or we either eat them as a sauce, paste, juice, and ketchup! Tomato is a popular vegetable; some say it’s a fruit since it contains seeds.
At the end of the day, tomatoes contain a rich source of antioxidants and are high in vitamin C and lycopene. Lycopene is a naturally occurring chemical that gives fruits and vegetables a red color watermelon, apricots, or pink grapefruits. In addition, tomatoes carry a lot of water.
There is a misconception amongst certain gout sufferers that tomatoes cause gout attacks. This is simply not true if you closely examine the ingredients. Tomatoes are 90% water and water is important for us gout sufferers.
Next, tomatoes are a low-purine food, and all my readers should know by now that foods that are high in purines may trigger a gout attack. What else? Tomatoes are low in sugar and carbs as well.
Heck, they’re even very low in calories. 100 grams only has 18 calories! Furthermore, 100 grams of tomatoes have 237 mg of potassium! So where do people get the idea that tomatoes are bad for us?
It’s true when tomatoes are cooked, they do become slightly acidic in the body once they are metabolized. However, it’s not anything significant that will cause any serious harm to your health.
For example, when cooking them, tomatoes release more lycopene which is very beneficial for so many other health conditions. If you eat them fresh as I do in my Greek salad, then you’ll experience less acidity.
Tomatoes are part of the “nightshades” food family which includes potatoes, peppers, and eggplant to which many people are allergic. Due to this fact, many people believe that these vegetables increase inflammation and arthritis pain although there is no research that has proven this.
This is where you must discern what is right from wrong and use some good ol’ common sense!
Why Does Gout Occur?
Gout is an arthritis-related condition that may be very painful. The body breaks down the chemical purine, which is found in some foods and in your body, to create uric acid. High blood uric acid levels may result in crystals forming around the joints, which will irritate the area and hurt.
Reduced consumption of foods high in purines may help some people manage flare-ups even though diet has little effect on the body’s overall purine and uric acid levels.
Tomatoes May Be Low in Purines But…
Although they contain little purine, tomatoes have been linked in some studies to gout flare-ups. Tomatoes were the fourth-most frequently reported trigger food in a study of more than 2,000 people without gout, where 20% of the participants reported that they were trigger food.
It’s unclear why eating tomatoes makes some people’s gout flare up.
According to some scientists, tomatoes may stimulate or increase the production of uric acid in some people due to their high glutamate content—an amino acid that is frequently present in foods high in purines. Genetics most likely influences who responds this way to tomatoes.
Gout and Tomatoes
Tomatoes were once thought to be healthy food, suitable for those suffering from gout until reports from those suffering from the condition claimed the food triggers symptoms. Some studies suggest a link between eating tomatoes and higher levels of uric acid, which is known to cause gout.
The science, however, is inconclusive. Genetics, rather than tomatoes or other foods, appear to play a much larger role in gout triggers. 6 Foods that may trigger gout in one person may not affect another in the same way, making food trigger research difficult to determine.
People with gout were previously advised to avoid foods high in purines, which the body breaks down to form uric acid. However, food does not account for a large portion of the uric acid found in the blood.
Even if you cut back on uric acid-forming foods, you won’t notice a significant difference in your symptoms because diet only accounts for about 10% of uric acid in your blood. The most effective way to help control gout attacks is to maintain a healthy body weight.
The benefits of tomatoes for a gout-friendly diet
Tomatoes are a healthy food that may help gout sufferers. According to some studies, eating tomatoes before a meal may help you lose weight, reduce your body fat percentage, lower your cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, and even lower your uric acid levels.
Tomatoes, particularly tomato juice, are high in vitamin C and lycopene, which help to reduce inflammation. Tomato juice is frequently fortified with extra vitamin C.
Because it is a concentrated form of tomatoes, it contains a higher concentration of lycopene than eating the food raw. Drinking tomato juice has been shown to increase antioxidant levels while decreasing cholesterol.
Because gout is an inflammatory condition, reducing inflammation in the body with lycopene-rich tomatoes may help to alleviate symptoms.
The potential drawbacks of tomato consumption
Gout patients are at risk of having high uric acid levels in their blood. Because diet may affect uric acid levels in the blood, it is critical to be aware of the foods that trigger you. Tomatoes are one food that many people with gout associate with flare-ups.
Glutamate and phenolic acid are two substances that tomatoes may contain that cause gout. Tomatoes may be worth avoiding if you feel they contribute to flare-ups even though both are only present in trace amounts and some people claim they cause their gout symptoms to flare.
If you think tomatoes are to blame, it’s important to be aware of foods like ketchup, BBQ and pasta sauces, and vegetable juices that have high tomato concentrations.
Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes, despite popular belief, are fruits. Having said that, they are typically consumed and prepared similarly to vegetables.
When fully grown, tomatoes are typically red, but they can also be yellow, orange, green, or purple. Additionally, there are numerous tomato subspecies with various forms and tastes.
According to research, tomatoes can be consumed in a variety of ways, including fresh, cooked, and juiced, and they may help prevent chronic diseases and support an active lifestyle.
Could benefit brain health
Alzheimer’s disease affects 10% of adults 65 and older in the United States (AD). The disease, which affects memory, thinking, and behavior, is a type of dementia with no cure and worsens over time.
While more research on the link between tomatoes and Alzheimer’s disease is needed, studies have suggested that antioxidants found in tomatoes, such as lycopene, may protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
One study found that participants aged 70 and up who consumed a lot of lycopene had a slower decline in cognitive function over four years (Collins, 2022).
More human research, specifically on adults aged 60 to 65, is required to better understand the true relationship between tomatoes’ potential protective benefits and AD and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
Could aid in the treatment of the metabolic syndrome
A group of conditions known as metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems. It requires the fulfillment of three or more of the following requirements:
- an enormous waistline.
- elevated blood pressure
- elevated blood sugar.
- high blood fats or triglycerides.
- Low levels of “good”
Metabolic syndrome is present in about one in three US adults. According to research, lycopene status, or the amount of lycopene in the blood, or lycopene consumption, may be connected to favorable modifications to the metabolic syndrome’s parts.
Promotes heart health
The leading cause of death for adults in the US, heart disease, has been linked to a diet high in tomatoes. According to a review of 25 previously published studies, consuming a lot of lycopene and having high levels of antioxidants in the blood cut the risk of heart disease by 14%.
Another study on healthy individuals examined the impact of a single serving of raw tomatoes, tomato sauce, or tomato sauce combined with olive oil on risk-related metrics for heart disease.
All three doses increased HDL cholesterol and anti-inflammatory levels while lowering blood triglycerides and cholesterol. Because olive oil increased lycopene absorption, tomato sauce plus olive oil had the greatest impact.
Helps regulate the digestive system
Constipation may result from insufficient fluid and fiber. Both nutrients are present in tomatoes, which have a whopping four and a half ounces of liquid and 1.5 grams of fiber per the whole tomato.
Tomatoes’ high-water content and dietary fiber content are known to promote hydration and healthy bowel movements. Tomatoes are high in both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool while soluble fiber retains water to create a gel-like texture during digestion. Both modifications result in waste that is easier to dispose of.
Tomato fibers, specifically cellulose, hemicelluloses, and pectins, are resistant to digestion in the large intestine and aid in the formation of healthy stool.
May help reduce the risk of Type-2 Diabetes
In the United States, 14.7% of adults have type 2 diabetes, and 38% have prediabetes, which occurs when blood sugar levels are too high but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
According to some studies, lycopene’s antioxidant properties aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. This is because it protects cells from damage, reduces inflammation, and strengthens the body’s defense mechanisms. The fiber in tomatoes may also help protect against diabetes.
Helps mitigate the risk of cancer
Two antioxidants found in tomatoes, lycopene, and beta-carotene, have been shown to have anticancer properties. They accomplish this in part by protecting cells from the type of DNA damage that may lead to cancer development and by causing cancer cells to die off.
Several studies have found that men who consume more tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes, have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Overall, eating non-starchy vegetables like tomatoes has been linked to a lower risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast tumors as well as colon, rectum, lung, stomach, and upper aerodigestive tract cancer (like the mouth, throat, and nasal sinuses).
Helps with exercise recovery
Exercise may cause protein damage in the body, and studies show that the antioxidants in tomatoes may help mitigate the effects. In one study of athletes, taking 3.5 ounces of tomato juice for two months after exercise improved recovery.
In another study, 15 healthy non-athletes rode a bicycle for 20 minutes after drinking 5 ounces of tomato juice for five weeks, followed by five weeks without tomato juice and five weeks with the juice.
Blood samples revealed that when tomato juice was consumed, blood markers associated with exercise-induced damage were significantly lower.
May help strengthen the immune system
Tomato juice’s beta-carotene and vitamin C may support the immune system. According to one study, tomato juice significantly increased the number of immune cells, particularly a class of cells known as natural killer cells that are known to fight off viruses.
Could promote male fertility
One 12-week study compared the effects of 190 grams (almost 7 ounces) of tomato juice per day to an antioxidant capsule or a placebo in male infertility patients.
Tomato juice significantly increased blood lycopene levels in men and sperm movement, an indicator of fertility, when compared to the control (placebo) group. However, no significant improvements were seen with the antioxidant capsule.
Are Tomatoes a Gout Trigger or a Low-Purine Food?
Tomatoes have long been thought to be a gout-friendly, nutrient-dense food, but new research suggests that they may raise uric acid levels, which may cause gout. The study is based on self-reporting, and more research is needed to determine whether tomatoes are a gout trigger.
Tomatoes have numerous health benefits and are a low-calorie, tasty food that is recommended for most people, but it is always a good idea to gather all of the facts before making a diet decision.
Tomatoes Have a Low PH
The issue with tomatoes is that they have a low pH and that is probably why they are such a popular gout trigger. To complicate matters further, the pH in tomatoes varies depending on the variety of the tomato and how it has been processed.
Here is the approximate pH value of different processed tomatoes:
- vine-ripened 4.42-4.65
- juice 4.10-4.60
- canned 3.50-4.70
- puree 4.30-4.47
- paste 3.50-4.70
- strained 4.32-4.58
- Cherry tomatoes 4.00-4.50
- Beefsteak 4.60-5.00
- Roma and Vita Gold 5.10
- Super Marzano 5.20
- cream of tomato soup 4.62
As you can see tomatoes generally have a pH level of under 5 so which makes this food very acidic which is not good for gout sufferers.
There is a study that proves tomatoes decrease uric acid levels involving “Gazpacho” soup which is a vegetable soup but consists of at least 50% tomatoes. The proof lies in this study, make sure to check it out, it claims to lower uric acid by 1-1.2 mg/dl for those who ate the soup daily!
In August 2015, a new University of Otago study from New Zealand claims that tomatoes are indeed a gout trigger. A survey of New Zealanders who suffer from gout asked which foods caused their trigger and tomatoes were listed as a trigger 20.2% of the time.
It was ranked as the fourth most commonly mentioned trigger behind alcohol, seafood, and red meat. This data was then pooled and analyzed from three long-running US studies to compare.
The data showed that consuming tomatoes is linked to higher uric acid levels in the blood.
Here is a quote from one of the study’s researchers:
“Whilst our data cannot support the claim that tomato consumption is a trigger of gout attacks, we provide support for the hypothesis that tomato consumption may trigger gout attacks through increasing serum urate.”
There is speculation that since tomatoes are high in a compound called glutamate which may “stimulate or amplify the synthesis of urate by acting as a nitrogen donor in the purine synthesis pathway,” they suggested that this may be the root cause.
The researchers did state that further research is needed to determine this relationship between gout triggers and tomatoes.
Tomatoes May Aggravate Gout Symptoms
The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Otago in New Zealand’s researchers discovered that many gout sufferers think tomatoes are one of the foods that cause gout.
2,051 New Zealanders with clinically confirmed gout were polled by the researchers. 71% of those surveyed acknowledged having one or more food triggers. Twenty percent of these cases listed tomatoes as a trigger.
The authors pooled and analyzed data from 12,720 male and female participants in three ongoing US health studies after concluding that tomatoes are a frequently mentioned trigger food.
This information demonstrated a connection between tomato consumption and higher blood levels of uric acid, which is the primary underlying cause of gout.
The researchers stated that their study was not designed to prove that tomatoes cause gout attacks. The findings do, however, indicate that this food may alter uric acid levels to a degree comparable to other commonly accepted gout-trigger foods.
The researcher went on to say that the most important thing people with gout may do to prevent attacks is to take a drug that reduces uric acid levels, such as Allopurinol.
How Can You Tell If Tomatoes Set Off Your Symptoms?
To see if tomatoes are a trigger for you, try cutting out all tomato products for a few weeks and seeing if your symptoms improve. Keeping a detailed record of what you eat over time may help you determine which foods are triggering you.
Keep a food diary and fill it out daily with the information below:
- Everything you eat at each meal and snack, including beverages and condiments.
- How much water do you consume?
- What you slept like the night before.
- Your state of mind throughout the day.
- Your body’s pain areas and levels throughout the day
- Your level of energy or fatigue throughout the day.
- What kind of physical activity and exercise do you do?
- All the medications and supplements you use.
Look for patterns that could be related to your diet or something else. Showing this record to your healthcare provider may also aid in the discovery of underlying triggers.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Gout attacks are unpredictable and usually affect only one joint at a time, such as the big toe. Other joints that are commonly affected include the other toes, the ankle, and the knee. A flare’s symptoms are usually obvious and include:
- The pain is excruciating.
- Tenderness and heat.
- The range of motion is restricted.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Gout symptoms that are left untreated may lead to worsening pain, more frequent episodes, or permanent joint damage.
Although tomatoes are very nutritious and suitable for most gout patients, tomatoes should be consumed as part of an overall balanced diet. Don’t go eating tomatoes at all hours of the day or night because I wrote about their numerous health benefits.
Finally, a word of caution: try and read the labels of food products containing tomatoes and see how much sodium is in them. Also check the levels of sugar since salt and sugar may wreak havoc on your health and may increase gout risk as well!