Uric Acid and Pea Protein: the Facts

Is pea protein bad for gout? How much purine is in pea protein? 

What is Purine?

Purine is one of the building blocks of DNA and is therefore present in all of our body’s cells. It is also found in foods—some more than others in concentrated form. The natural breakdown of purine whether from cells or foods results in uric acid, which is then eliminated in urine. 

Uric Acid and Gout

Uric acid is normally present in our blood at low levels and actually helps to prevent damage to our blood vessel linings. Kidneys help to regulate levels of uric acid by excreting excessive amounts through the urine.

According to the CDC, if you have certain health conditions like obesity, diabetes, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure or have poor kidneys, your body might produce too much uric acid or have problems eliminating it. This can lead to the formation of uric acid crystals which get built up in tendons, joints, kidneys or other organs and result in what is known as “gout.” 

Gout is an inflammatory condition that can be very painful. 

What Foods contain Purine? 

The average diet of an adult in the US contains 600-1000mg of purine on a daily basis(1). Low purine diets are usually only recommended to those with gout or at risk of developing gout as a means of reducing the amount of uric acid production.

High-purine foods include(1):

  • Organ meats (brain, kidney, and heart)
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Shellfish, such as scallops and mussels
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Goose
  • Consommé
  • Bouillon
  • Broth
  • Fish eggs

The following foods are moderately high in purine(2):

  • Meats, poultry, and fish
  • Certain vegetables, such as:
  • Asparagus
  • Dried beans
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Dried peas
  • Spinach

Though many healthy foods including yellow peas might be moderately high in purines, it would take more than ten 3.5 ounce servings to reach the upper average intake of purine in one day (1). A couple of epidemiological studies on thousands of men and women have also concluded that purine-containing foods are not created equal (3,4). Specifically, moderate consumption of plant-based purine foods (such as from peas) was safer in terms of gout risk compared to consumption of purine from seafood and meat (3). In other words, seafood and meat were associated with a higher risk of gout, whereas plant-based purine sources had no associated risk.

Bottom Line

If you're generally healthy and you don't have metabolic conditions, then there's no reason to completely eliminate plant-based purine containing foods like peas or pea protein. 


1. What are purines and in which foods are they found? The World’s Healthiest Foods. 2012. Available at:http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=51
2. Gout. RD411. 2012. Available at: http://www.rd411.com/education-materials/diseases-and-medical-conditions/item/502-gout
3. Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Willett W, Curhan G. Purine-Rich Foods, Dairy and Protein Intake, and the Risk of Gout in Men. N Engl J Med. 2004; 350(11): 1093-103.
4. Choi HK, Liu S, Curhan G. Intake of purine-rich foods, protein and dairy products and relationship to serum levels of uric acid: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arthritis Rheum. 2005; 52(1): 283-9.

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