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Sugary drinks raise gout risk

Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fructose are strongly linked to an increased risk of gout in men.

Sugary drinks raise gout risk

Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fructose are strongly linked to an increased risk of gout in men. However, drinking diet soft drinks does not increase the risk. Sweetened soft drinks contain large amounts of fructose, a sugar derived from fruit, which increase levels of uric acid, a waste product produced in the body that passes through the kidneys into the urine. Deposition of crystals of uric acid triggers joint inflammation, resulting in gout. Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the Harvard Medical School in Boston studied 46,393 men who were gout-free at the onset of the study and were followed for 12 years. These men were asked to fill questionnaires giving information on their consumption levels of soft drinks and fructose. During that period, 755 men developed gout, and the risk was related directly to levels of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption. Compared with soft drink levels of less than one serving per month, consumption of 5–6 servings per week, one serving per day, and two or more servings per day, increased the risk of gout by 29 per cent, 45 per cent, and 85 per cent, respectively. A similar trend was noted with fructose consumption. Compared with people who consumed the lowest fructose levels, those who consumed the highest had an increased gout risk of 102 per cent. Consumption of high-fructose fruits, such as apples and oranges, was also associated with an increased risk of gout. The strong increase in gout risk associated with sweetened soft drinks and fructose comes as a surprise, because current dietary recommendations for gout focus on the restriction of alcohol, strong risk factor for gout, and the amino acid purine, but have no restrictions on sugar-sweetened soft drinks or fructose. Thus, the findings suggest that doctors treating gout patients and patients with high uric acid levels should keep them away from sugary soft drinks. As for recommending reductions in high-sugar fruits, the risks versus the benefits need to be considered on a patient-by-patient basis. Further research is needed to see if these findings also apply to women, and to determine if fructose is associated with cardiovascular disease and other major disorders related to high uric acid levels.
British Medical Journal,
February 2008
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