Sugar and Gout: An Inflammatory Combination

How to Replace White, Brown, or Corn Syrup Sugars

Sugar is associated with increased inflammation. One form of sugar called fructose, primarily found naturally in fruit, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup, can contribute to a form of arthritis called gout.

People with gout go through periods of flare-ups, which usually affect one joint at a time. Symptoms of a gout flare-up include redness, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in the affected area.

This article examines the relationship between sugar and gout.

High angle view of chopped fruits in a bowl on a table

Claudine Weber-Hilty / EyeEm / Getty Images

Why Is Sugar Bad for Gout?

Frequent consumption of added sugar can cause inflammation. Fructose is a specific type of sugar that is especially problematic for gout when consumed in large amounts.

When you ingest fructose, it causes the release of purines, a chemical compound that becomes uric acid (a waste product in urine) when digested. Uric acid produces crystals that can build up in the joints, leading to the joint pain associated with gout.

In addition to fructose, other sources of sugar can impact joint pain with gout.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an artificial ingredient that significantly sweetens foods. It's made by turning cornstarch into glucose and then a concentrated source of fructose.

Consuming foods and beverages sweetened with HFCS has been associated with a higher risk of gout among adults.

Natural Sugars

Honey and agave nectar are natural sugars high in fructose, which can contribute to gout flare-ups if eaten frequently.

Whole fruits contain natural sugars, including fructose. However, they also offer beneficial nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, which can help outweigh the downsides of the sugar in fruit for most people with gout.

Research suggests that whole fruits do not cause adverse effects in people with gout. Of course, if certain types of fruits worsen your joint pain, you may want to steer clear of them anyway.

Generally, it's best to avoid fruit products, like fruit juice or applesauce, that are highly concentrated sources of fructose without those other nutrients.

Brown Sugar and White Sugar

Brown and white sugars impact gout similarly to the way natural sugars do. While brown and white sugars don't contain fructose, consuming them regularly has been linked to inflammation.

Furthermore, eating a diet high in refined sugars like these is associated with other conditions that can worsen gout, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Sugary Gout Foods and Drinks to Avoid

If you have gout, avoiding high-fructose food and drinks is best to prevent gout flare-ups.

Some of the most sugary drinks are:

  • Soda
  • Fruit juice
  • Sports drinks
  • Energy drinks

Sodas and sports drinks are frequently sweetened using HFCS, and fruit juices are naturally high in fructose and don't contain the fiber of whole fruit.

Many packaged foods are sweetened with HFCS. These may include:

  • Snack foods
  • Baked goods
  • Condiments
  • Canned foods
  • Peanut butter

Reading the ingredients list on packaged items is an excellent habit to get into in an effort to avoid foods and drinks containing fructose or HFCS. Additionally, avoid natural sweeteners like honey and agave, and limit your intake of fruit juices.

Reading Food Labels

To determine whether a specific food product contains sugar, check the list for the following ingredients:

  • Sugar, honey, agave, or maple syrup
  • Corn sweetener or corn syrup
  • Dextrose, fructose, or high fructose corn syrup

Gout-Friendly Sugar Alternatives

Substituting a small amount of cane sugar or brown sugar in place of honey, agave nectar, or other fructose-rich sweeteners can add sweetness with less impact on gout symptoms.

Whole fruits are naturally sweet and may contribute to joint health. For example, cherries have been studied for their ability to lower uric acid levels, which may help reduce inflammation and support joint health.


Gout flare-ups can be very painful and include symptoms like redness, swelling, and tenderness. One of the most significant diet-related contributors to gout flare-ups is the frequent consumption of fructose sugar. As part of a healthy diet, avoiding foods high in fructose can help limit gout flare-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does sugar always make gout worse?

    Not all types of sugar contain fructose, which is the primary type of sugar that contributes to gout flare-ups. Still, sugar isn't a healthy food, and eating too much of it can promote inflammation, which worsens gout symptoms in some people.

  • Why does sugar trigger inflammation?

    When you frequently eat fructose, your body releases compounds called purines. When these break down, they become uric acid, a waste product that can form crystals that accumulate around your joints, making them inflamed and painful.

  • What else shouldn't you eat with gout?

    In addition to concentrated sources of fructose, people with gout should avoid foods rich in purines. Eating purine can prolong a gout flare-up. Some purine-rich foods include alcohol, organ meats, yeast, wild game, and certain types of seafood.

16 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD
Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, is a plant-based dietitian, writer, and speaker who specializes in helping people bring more plants to their plate. She's a highly respected writer in the health and nutrition space and loves talking about the power of diet. Lauren aims to connect people with the information and resources to live their healthiest, fullest life.