Got Gout? Get Milk

Drinking skim milk may help people manage their gout, according to research presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Philadelphia, Pa.

Gout is a painful and potentially disabling form of arthritis that has been recognized since ancient times. Initial symptoms usually consist of intense episodes of painful swelling in single joints, most often in the feet (especially the big toe). Treatments are already available to prevent or control the arthritis associated with gout, but managing this disorder can be difficult, and treatment plans often have to be tailored for each person.

Previous studies have indicated that individuals who drink a lot of milk have a lower risk of developing gout. Researchers recently studied the effects of skim milk on serum uric acid concentrations, which—when at an elevated level—increase the risk of gout.

With the help of 16 healthy male volunteers, researchers studied the effects of drinking soy milk and three different types of skim milk, produced at different times of the milking season from grass-fed cows.

Each participant received a single dose of each product (each containing 80 grams of protein) in random order. Researchers collected samples of serum and urine immediately before each participant drank one of the beverages and then hourly over a three-hour period. They completed this with each participant for each of the four beverages with a week in between each session.

Researchers found that after drinking the soy milk, the serum uric acid increased by about 10 percent. In contrast, all skim milks led to a decrease in serum uric acid by approximately 10 percent. All beverages (including the soy milk) rapidly increased the ability of the kidneys to remove uric acid from the body.

Additionally, researchers found that late season skim milk led to a greater increase in the removal of uric acid by the kidneys when compared to the other skim milks. Late season skim milk is primarily available from countries where milking is seasonal and cows are grass-fed, such as New Zealand and Australia, and is known to contain higher levels of orotic acid, a substance that promotes uric acid removal by the kidneys.

Ultimately, the study showed that skim milk has a specific uric acid-lowering effect, and it might be a good dietary way to assist in the prevention and treatment of gout.

“This study has shown that skim milk can significantly reduce the serum uric acid concentration in the short term,” explains Nicola Dalbeth, MD, FRACP; senior lecturer, clinical medicine, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, and lead investigator in the study. “The results suggest that increasing the amount of skim milk in the diet may help with preventing the development of gout, and also assist with treatment for those with the disease. We are now continuing this work by studying the longer term effects of milk in people with gout.”

The ACR is an organization of and for physicians, health professionals, and scientists that advances rheumatology through programs of education, research, advocacy and practice support that foster excellence in the care of people with or at risk for arthritis and rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.

Source: American College of Rheumatology (ACR)