What Are Purines?

Purines are organic molecules that include nucleotides (adenine, guanine, hypoxanthine, xanthine), and caffeine. The first four purines, in combination with pyramidines, make up the genetic codes DNA and RNA, and energy molecules,  such as ATP, GTP and coenzyme A. They are essential for life and are found in all plant and animal cells.

How Purine Rich Diet Causes Gout

Purine metabolism, breakdown of purine molecules, in the liver, produces uric acid. Uric acid is an antioxidant and has beneficial effects, such as as a free-radical scavenger. When it accumulates to a high level in the blood, hyperuricemia,  however, it can cause gout, and other health problems.

Gout is a form of arthritis caused by accumulation of uric acid crystals in joints, such as in the big toe.

A 12-year study that followed eating habits and gout incidence in a large number of men found that eating purine rich food, such as meat and seafood, was associated with high risk of gout. Whereas higher level of consumption of dairy products, especially skimmed types, was associated with a reduced risk of gout. Moderate intake of purine-rich vegetables or protein was not associated with an increased risk of gout. A recent study also found a positive association between fructose (a type of sugar found in fruits) and sweetened beverages and gout.

According to some studies, a purine-free diet decreases blood uric acid level, on average, from 1.0 to 1.2 mg/100 ml; whereas, consumption of 4 g of ribonucleic acid (RNA), purine, per day, increases blood uric acid level from 1.5 to 2.0 mg /100 ml.

Recommended Daily Intake of Purines

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans has no recommended daily intake for purines or uric acid. The Japanese Society of Gout and Nucleic Acid Metabolism, to prevent an abnormal high level of uric acid in blood (hyperuricemia) and gout, recommends to keep purine consumption to under 400mg per day.

According to the Japanese Society of Gout, a blood urate level below 7mg/dL is considered to be normal and above it, hyperuricemia and gout risk.

Food Purine Content Groups and Gout Risk

According to a Japanese study, foods can be classified into five groups based on the total purine content and level of risk to hyperuricemia and gout.

Total purine content (mg per 100 gram food) Category
 > 300 Very High
 200 - 300 High
 100 - 200 Moderate
 50 -100  Low
 < 50  Very Low

Foods High or Low in Purines

In the following tables are estimates of total purine content in a variety of food items, presented in descending order. Total purine content is based on the sum of all the four purine bases. Meat and meat products have high total purine content, where as cereal foods contain low purine content. Generally, there is a positive association between protein and purine content in diet.


Table 1: High or low purine food sources.

Food Sources of Purine

Total purine content


Liver 286.4
Kidney 230.8
Poultry 130.7
lamb, roasted, chop 127.5
Pork, roasted, chop 119.0
Fish, white, fresh 115.9
Raisins 107.0
Brocoli 81
Apricot, dried 73.0
Brussels sprouts 69
Sweetcorn 52.0
Cauliflower 51.0
Mushroom, fresh 46.9
Bread, crusted 15.7
Bread, white 12.2
Wheat flour 11.5
Cottage cheese 8.0
Plain yogurt 7.0
Rice, cooked 5.9
Peach 21
Orange 19.0
Apple 14.0


Purine content also varies depending on the type of meat  cuts or organ.

Table 2: Purine content in chicken, pork, lamb, and beef parts.

Purine sources Total purine content


Chicken organs and parts
chicken, liver 243
chicken, liver 236.1
Chicken, heart 223
Chicken, drumstick 132.3
Chicken, breast 130.7
Chicken, gizzard 130.5
Chicken, thigh 126.5
Chicken, skin 104.6
Pork, beef, and lamb organs
Pork, liver 289
Beef, kidney 213
Beef, liver 197
Beef, heart 171
Lamb, heart 171
Beef, brain 162
Lamb, liver 147


According to a study that compared free and total purine bases content in meat products (steak, beef liver and haddock fillets) before and after cooking, cooking appears to increase the level of free and total purine bases in a diet.

Table 3: Total purine content in raw and cooked foods.

Meat products Total purine content


Liver, raw 202.2
liver, boiled 237.0
liver, broiled 236.1
Steak, raw 105.9
Steak, boiled 107.8
Steak, broiled 121.0
Haddock, raw 101.7
Haddock, boiled 94.7
Haddock, broiled 118.7

 high purine seafood

Table 4: Purine content in seafoods (fish and crustaceans, fresh and canned), and vegetables (legumes).

Purine food sources

Total purine content


Fresh seafoods
Anchovies 411
Sardines 345
Salmon 250
Mackerel 194
Clams 136
Squid 135
Canned seafoods
Sardines 399
Herring 378
Anchovies 321
Mackerel 246
Shrimp 234
Tuna 142
Oysters 107
Salmon 88
Clams 62
Dried legumes
Blackeye peas 230
Lentils 222
Great northern bean 213
Small white bean 202
Split peas 195
Pinto bean 171
Red bean 162
Large lima bean 149
Baby lima bean 144
Cranberry bean 75
Garbanzo bean 56


More on gout and diet:

Purine content in alcoholic drinks, seasonings and supplements
Purines and uric acid content in beef, pork and chicken
Purines and uric acid content in vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy products
Purines and uric acid content in fish and seafood
Gout causes, diagnosis, symptoms, and cure
Food high or low in uric acid
Gout and diet: Serum uric acid level and coffee and tea intake
Uric acid reducing foods
Gout Causes: Food High in Purines and Uric Acid, and Alcohol
Low purine diet cookbooks and gout related books



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