Researchers found men who had the highest vitamin C intake from supplements and food were up to 45% less likely to develop the painful condition than those who had the lowest.
Vitamin C is found naturally in citrus fruit, broccoli, and other fruits and vegetables; it is often taken in supplement form.
Researcher Hyon K. Choi, MD, formerly of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and now of the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues say other studies have suggested that vitamin C appears to prevent gout by reducing levels of uric acid in the blood. Buildup of uric acid can lead to the formation of crystals, which can deposit in the body, leading to the pain, inflammation, and swelling associated with gout.
In the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed the relationship between vitamin C intake and gout among 46,994 healthy men from 1986 to 2006. The men answered questionnaires detailing vitamin C intake through diet and/or vitamin C supplements every four years.
During the study period, 1,317 new cases of gout were diagnosed among the participants.
The results showed that those with higher vitamin C intake had a consistently lower risk of developing gout than others. For example, men with a vitamin C intake of 1,500 milligrams or more per day had a 45% lower risk of gout compared with those who had a vitamin C intake of less than 250 milligrams per day.
Nearly all the men who had vitamin C intakes over 500 milligrams per day took vitamin C supplements. Researchers found that for every 500 milligrams of vitamin C the men took, the risk of gout was reduced by an additional 15%.
Researchers say the results suggest that taking vitamin C supplements at the levels in the study (less than 2,000 milligrams per day) may be a safe and effective way to prevent gout.