Low purine diets may be helpful in lowering levels of uric acid in the body, and may involve reducing or eliminating foods with high concentrations of purines. A purine is a compound that is mainly found in animal protein and is metabolized to uric acid in the body, comprising about 15% of the body's uric acid. This diet is usually given to individuals with gout and Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (a rare genetic disorder that occurs in 1/100,000 people).
Uric acid is a substance resulting from the breakdown of purines, which are part of all human tissue and are found in many foods. Uric acid dissolves in the blood, passes through the kidneys, and is then eliminated in the urine. The buildup of this substance in the body may lead to problems, including kidney stones and gout.
(hyperuricemia) is a condition characterized by abnormally high blood levels of uric acid (urate). Urate crystals may form in joints, resulting in inflammation and pain. Urate crystals may also form in the kidney and urinary tract, resulting in kidney stones. This condition usually develops first in the joint of the big toe first. Common symptoms include inflammation, pain, redness, stiffness, swelling, and warm to the touch. Symptoms of gout may develop quickly and typically occur in only one joint at a time. Touching or moving the joint may be extremely painful.
Gout was once thought of as a "rich man's disease" because only the wealthy could afford to eat salted meats, rich breads, and malted liquors on a regular basis. The prevalence of gout has increased in the last 50 years due to the tendency of contemporary people to ignore foods high in purine levels in favor of convenience and cost.
Lesch-Nyhan syndrome (LNS) is a rare, inherited disorder that affects how the body builds and breaks down purines. It is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme called hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT). LNS is characterized by increased blood and uric acid levels which may lead to gout-like swelling in the joints or renal dysfunction.
Although a low purine diet is often adopted for the treatment of gout or Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, high-quality, long-term human trials dealing explicitly with the management of gout through a low purine diet alone are still lacking.
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The adoption of a low purine diet may help treat gout and avoid complications. For this reason, experts often suggest a low purine diet along with medications to reduce the uric acid concentrations. Some people may be able to lower their uric acid levels through diet alone. Most experts recommend consuming at least 50% of calories from carbohydrates, by eating six to ten servings of bread or starchy foods, and five fruits and vegetables each day.
Gout is often treated with medicines that help the body get rid of extra uric acid. But, eating the right foods may help limit the amount of purines in the body, thus decreasing the amount of uric acid in the body.
There is no cure for NLS. Treatment focuses on reducing the prevalence of symptoms. For this reason, a low purine diet may be attractive to the caretakers of individuals with NLS.