Researchers from University of Otago have for the first time found a biological basis for the belief that eating tomatoes can cause gout to flare up in some people.
Gout is a painful and debilitating form of arthritis that affects approximately three times more men than women.
Once a person has gout – higher levels of uric acid in the blood – eating certain foods can cause their gout to flare up in a painful attack.
“We found that the positive association between eating tomato and uric acid levels was on a par with that of consuming seafood, red meat, alcohol or sugar-sweetened drinks,” explained PhD student Tanya Flynn and lead researchers.
Researchers noticed that a large number of gout sufferers believe tomatoes to be one of these gout trigger foods.
The researchers surveyed 2,051 New Zealanders with clinically-verified gout. Of these people 71 percent reported having one or more food triggers. Tomatoes were listed as a trigger in 20 percent of these cases.
Tomatoes were found to be the fourth most commonly mentioned trigger, after seafood, alcohol and red meat.
After determining tomatoes are a commonly cited trigger food, the authors analysed data from 12,720 male and female members of three long-running US health studies.
The results showed that tomato consumption is linked to higher levels of uric acid in the blood.
Tomatoes can alter uric acid levels to a degree comparable to other commonly accepted gout trigger foods.
Flynn emphasised that the most important thing that people with gout can do to prevent attacks is take a uric acid-lowering drug.
“Avoiding tomatoes may be helpful for people who have experienced a gout attack after eating them, but with proper treatment this doesn’t have to be a long-term avoidance," she noted in a paper published in the international journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.