Thursday, 19 November 2009

The puzzle of meat and gout

One of the most persuasive arguments in favour of vegetarianism is that meat metabolises to purines. They are most abundant in organ meats (offal) which apparently was the favourite treat in the Paleo days (brain and bone marrow in particular – the bits that big carnivores could not easily access). Purines are also in seafood (but also in chocolate). Tasty as they are, they contribute to gout and to kidney stones. Better to stay away from meat (chocolate is fine).

And indeed, quite a few Atkins followers report on various discussion forums that they had developed gout and had to stop the diet. High protein diet raises the level of uric acid in blood, but the kidney should handle that (actually there is no evidence on harmfulness of high protein diet on kidney function). Perhaps there are studies out there, I have not done extensive searches, but I one thing appears to make sense to me: sodium urate precipitates in more acidic conditions. High protein diet makes the blood more acidic. (Incidentlally, alcohol makes gout worse, possibly by acidifying the body even more). But if high protein diet is complemented by copious amounts of alkalising vegetables, thing should balance out. Something Atkins people might consider.

But why is it that Inuit/Eskimos have no gout, though they eat practically nothing but meat? Absence of salt in their diet? Vitamin D in the fish?


  1. Eskimos eat primarily fat, not protein. They even have a term for times when fat is scarce and protein plentiful. They call it "rabbit fever".

    Eating a high protein, low carb diet can cause the formation of too much glucose. Excess protein is converted to glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis.

    I actually started to gain weight on a low-carb diet when my protein intake got too high. I cut back on the protein and my weight went down. I was also less hungry. Weird.

  2. Hi ET,

    Thanks for sharing your observation. You are probably right with gluconeogenesis. BTW, I remember reading somewhere that carnivores have much more efficient pathway of glucogenesis than humans. This could have been based on observations on average humans on low-to-moderate protein. With more meat in the diet the enzymes of this pathway can upregulate producing more glucose and ultimately more fat for starage.

    I think Eskimos still eat/ate a lot of protein, though this could have varied geographicaly and seasonally. There is an interesiting post about Eskimo diet pH (protein related) and osteoporosis on:

  3. Boyer GS, Lanier AP, Templin DW. Prevalence rates of spondyloarthropathies, rheumatoid arthritis, and other rheumatic disorders in an Alaskan Inupiat Eskimo population. J Rheumatol 1988 Apr;15(4):678-83. "The prevalence rates of rheumatoid arthritis (1.0%), gout (0.3%), and other rheumatic diseases were similar to those of the United States population in general."