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Can protein supplements cause arthritis?

Q) Is there any evidence to show that taking protein supplements can cause or worsen arthritis?
Antony

A) If you're at risk of gout, excessive protein intake may be problematic. Gout is the most common inflammatory arthritis and is caused by having too much uric acid in your bloodstream. Uric acid is the waste product created when the body breaks down purines – a type of protein found in many foods and all your cells.

Gout is a metabolic disease which is mainly influenced by our genes, age, gender and ethnicity. However, levels of uric acid are also affected by what we eat. If you're at risk of gout, eating a lot of protein in the form of red meat, soya or shellfish, all high in purines, makes attacks more likely. So, eating lots of protein is bad news for people with gout.

Protein supplements in the form of whey proteins contain gycomacropeptide, a component of milk that appears to reduce the risk of attacks of gout. However, people with gout should be careful about increasing their protein load with whey. The burden on the kidneys to excrete or clear the extra whey products might become excessive, so it’s always worth getting a blood test to check your kidney function if you have gout and are considering using whey protein supplements.

This answer was provided by Dr Tom Margham for the Winter 2017 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

Send your questions for Dr Tom Margham to enquiries@arthritisresearchuk.org


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