Bad for the Brain

Bad for the Brain

Excess uric acid gives gout patients fits by forming sharp crystals in the tissue that surrounds joints. But pain is only part of the problem. A new study shows that uric acid may also produce an unwanted effect on cognitive function.

This is Your Brain on Uric Acid

Most gout patients have inherited a genetic condition that inhibits the excretion of uric acid (UA). For others, gout is caused by an excessive production of uric acid, which may be prompted by obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, or a high intake of diuretic drugs or diuretic foods (such as liver).

Whatever the root cause, all elderly gout patients should talk to their doctors about a new study from Johns Hopkins University Hospital.


  • Researchers recruited nearly 100 adults, ages 65 to 92
  • Blood tests showed that UA levels ranged from 1.5 mg/dL to 7.6 mg/dL
  • Subjects also underwent MRI brain scans, neuropsychological testing, psychiatric interviews, and general physical exams
  • When UA levels were matched with other test results, researchers found that subjects with mildly elevated UA (4.8 mg/dL for women and 5.8 mg/dL for men) were much more likely to have below-average cognitive scores
  • Subjects in this mildly elevated UA group were also more likely to have impaired memory and verbal learning, and were six times more likely to have impaired processing speed
  • When other factors (such as age, education, and alcohol use) were accounted for, memory and verbal learning scores were even lower among subjects with higher UA

According to the Hopkins team, uric acid has antioxidant properties. But regardless of that potential health benefit, they conclude that their findings “suggest that even mild elevations of UA might increase the risk of cognitive decline among older adults.”

Check the food triggers

If you have gout, or if your doctor finds that your UA levels are elevated, there are simple guidelines that may help relieve your condition. Organ meat may inhibit UA excretion

High protein diets in general may also inhibit UA excretion

Other foods that sometimes inhibit UA excretion include broccoli, asparagus, coffee, and orange juice

Eating cherries and drinking cherry juice helps prompt UA excretion

Increased water intake also helps eliminate UA from the body

A colleague of mine named Ramsey has coped with gout for several years. Ramsey tells me that when he was first diagnosed, he found a book titled “Getting Rid of Gout: A Guide to Management and Prevention” to be very helpful. Bryan Emerson is the author, and his book can be found on

I can also recommend a book, titled “The Gout Relief Handbook,” which examines natural treatments that control gout pain, as well as the nutrients that help prevent recurring flare-ups.

“Serum Uric Acid and Cognitive Function in Community-Dwelling Older Adults” Neuropsychology, Vol. 21, No. 1, January 2007,