Growing Gout Problem Linked to Sweet Drinks

Did you do a double take on this one? Yes, gout is making an uncomfortable comeback in the U.S., actually doubling in the last few decades. If you always pictured gout as a disease of the Charles Dicken’s era, you’re not alone. It’s likely history buffs knew more about it than health nuts until now. Thanks, in part, to the likes of soda, Sunny D and other sweet drinks, we can all get a lesson in popular medical conditions of the Victorian era. The study comes out of the University of British Columbia.

A surge in the painful joint condition called gout among American men is linked to a rise in drinking sodas and other sugary soft drinks, a study published Friday suggests. The risk of the disease increased in line with the intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Those least likely to develop gout were men who drank less than one serving per month. Compared with that group, men who drank five to six servings a week were 29 percent likelier to develop gout. This probability rose to 45 percent among those who had one serving per day, and to 85 percent among those who drank two servings or more. The risk was proportionately higher among drinks containing fructose as a sweetener rather than sugar.

via Yahoo! News

The findings are dramatic, to say the least. Since we’ve been talking a lot lately about methodology, it’s worth mentioning a few key components of this research. Though the study used self-report diet questionnaires, the large subject base (more than 51,000 men) and extensive time span (12 years total) are certainly compelling factors. As a merely interesting side note, the subjects were dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians, all professionals with a significant science based background and familiarity with research methodology.

And, well, I just have to say the results seem to make sense, don’t they? We talk ad nauseum about the inherent evils of sugars here, I know. Incidentally, diet sodas didn’t increase the risk for gout, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to give a big endorsement for Franken-foods as a sugar substitute. And this is the real kicker: we’ve known that fructose has been tied to increased uric acid, but protein has traditionally gotten the blame. This study offers the chance for a reassessment of these dietary associations.

I have to say, these kinds of studies make our message seem both a little easier and even more important to put out there. People shouldn’t have to develop these kinds of conditions. Their lives shouldn’t be sidetracked like this.

Gout is, admittedly, a novel twist on all the sugar scenarios we discuss, but it’s nothing to shake a stick at. Caused by the an excess of uric acid in the blood that then crystallizes and builds up in the joints, gout wreaks havoc, often causing a person an immense amount of pain, swelling, and even deformity.

Gout has also been associated with the simultaneous development of other conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and renal disorders. On top of it all, research at Johns Hopkins tied the elevation of uric acid to successive mini-strokes.

Oddly enough, sometimes the advent or return of unusual conditions (like gout) gets people’s attention more than continued warnings about fatal but “run-of-the-mill” effects like heart disease. Will a surge in gout make a person stop and think about drinking a second can of soda each day? Will anything?

Further Reading:

Smart Fuel: Pineapple, Bromelain and Gout

Wikipedia: Gout

That’s Fit: Coffee Helps Prevent Gout

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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16 thoughts on “Growing Gout Problem Linked to Sweet Drinks”

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  1. I guess it’s a good thing that I imbibe huge amounts of aspartame, then. Haha. And that I avoid high fructose corn syrup.

    I may get some terrible cancer, but I sure won’t get gout! =)

  2. Men who drink less than one soda a month? Who the heck is that? Any study that draws conclusions from such a small, self-selected subset of the population is meaningless. Guys who drink no soda are just plain _weird_, and probably have many other unusual habits and dietary patterns, which may be why they don’t get gout.

    These studies suggest that if you change the one thing — give up soda — your chances of gout will decrease. But they haven’t proven that, and any interpretation of the study that says they have is sloppy.

  3. By the way, gout is associated with obesity. Drinking soda is associated with obesity. Skinny people are less like to drink soda. Isn’t that all there is here?

    If you can drink soda and stay thin, no gout.

  4. The interpretation of the study isn’t just about soda. It’s about sugar (in its many forms) in general. The sugar content of drinks such as soda is enormous, and it’s one key piece.

  5. … And fat people eat a lot of sugar. The study abstract said they gave questionnaires to gout victims about their food and there was an association with sugar and soft drink consumption. Association means correlation, not causation. Causation is obesity. Sugar and obesity are associated also. Gout and eating foods with red packaging is also associated. This study is silly, and shows what happens when M.D.s start to think they’re epidemiologists. They don’t know what they’re doing, and they should go back to treating the gout symptoms, which is what they’re trained for.

  6. I am not sure what I am experiencing is gout – but it could be… I do’nt drink soda – only water or sometimes put an ounce or so of cherry or pomegranate juice and coffee…

    I need to lose a little weight, but not really obese….

    I’ve been staying away from the grains… and I’m not a big sugar person…

    and I really don’t eat a ton of pork –

    I did have surgery in February and they used propofol for the anesthetic, which I heard can trigger gout, but how long would it last?

    My right big toe was so sore, it kept me up half the night a week or so ago – I feel it ache a little, but it hasn’t been incapacitating…

    any advice on a cure?


  7. I was diagnosed with gout about 2 years ago at the age of 26. It is the most painful thing that I have ever been through. The mere pain alone has been inspiration enough to study up on this subject. This solution makes a lot of sense in reference to sugar, not protein, causing gout. Ever since the reading the PB and this article above, I have concluded that this is true. Stay away from soda! Drink more water!

  8. Wikipedia says eating too much meat causes gout. I’m having an attack of it tonight. I eat pretty much meat, but not as much as I used to when younger. Also, I’m not obese…a 62 year old guy, 5’9″, 152 pounds.

  9. I believe that dehydration is another contributor to gout.

    I read a post over at the forum section of MDA, by a doctor, which suggested that increased protein intake can increase the filtration function of your kidneys, which would in turn decrease the flow of water through them, if I understood right.

    This would mean that while it wasn’t an inherent property of protein itself that relates to gout, protein might have an effect on the kidneys that could contribute to dehydration, which is thought to be a cause of both gout and kidney stones, which are related.

    Therefore, perhaps one ought to increase fluid intake if protein intake is increased? Or alternately, when cutting grains and other starches out of one’s diet, as recommended by PB, replace them with veggies and fat, rather than with increased protein? Just trying to think this through, not sure if my comments are valid yet.

    1. I’m glad I read your post! My husband and I have been paleo (me, strictly, him, strict for about 6 months) for going on 4 years. We’ve both loved it BUT, he came up with a heightened uric content, just over the top. He’s opted for meds but I don’t like them so I was looking at how I might alter our diet. I’m upping our vegetable intake and lowering our red meat intake. However, low hydration has been a chronic problem for me for my whole life and I think you may have hit the nail on the head…at least for me. I haven’t had a soft drink since 1969 so I don’t think that’s it! I don’t use sugar (except for some coconut sugar occasionally) so that didn’t fit, and I don’t drink alcohol at all. Don’t worry, I have my vices. I smoke weed and have for 45 years, though at a very low level. I don’t think that’s it either. I think you may be on to something here and I’m going to make it a priority to increase my hydration and see if that works. Also taking Tart cherry juice (see, more liquid already), and dried tart cherries and that seems to be helping too. Good luck to you and thank you again for your suggestion.

      1. I still think dehydration is a key to gout, 4 years after that post. I wasn’t able to lower my uric acid level through diet, so I went on the med, Uloric, though I didn’t want to. However, my PCP told me that the gout would kill me if I didn’t take the med, so I went on it. I have not had side effects that I’ve noticed.

        Also, about 6 months after my post, I developed coronary artery blockage and was hospitalized over it for 2 days, so, while I still eat fat, I’ve cut it back quite a bit. I almost never eat French Fries anymore, but they are not exactly primal.

        I need to say that both cardiac problems and gout run in my family. Dad had gout and Mom had coronary problems.

        For now, I’m working very hard at staying thin, not always easy. Am also considering intermittent fasting, need to read up on it some.

        Take care and good luck!

  10. I have been on a primal diet for the last three month now. I got my blood checked last week and all things look very good but my uric acid increased to 7.9. I have a drink every once in a while but wouldn’t say that I drink excessively. Any idea what could have increased the uric acid value? Is it possible that I don’t get enough carbohydrates?

  11. Paul Jaminet thnks fructose may be a gout attack driver. Some of us, when first on the PB, eat quite a lot of fruit while weaning ourselves off of sugar.

  12. Is there any chance that regular consumption of fruit juice could contribute just as much as soda? Many on a CW ” healthy” diet have one ore more servings of OJ or other juice…plenty of fructose there too.

  13. This whole study is some how helpful and somehow confusing. I prefers Sunny D over Pepsi everyday whole day if I can for a number of resons. Vitamin C. I live in Canada and its very cold here. During flu seasons doctors recommend orange juice and chicken soup. Sunny D equals gout so is chicken soup which also has protein and preservatives to keep the soup on the shelves longer. Shouldn’t manufacturers provide people with information on foods we consume? I will be happy to know that they used artificial fluctose corn syrup or crystalline fluctose to sweaten my Sunny D to avoid problems. Those crystallines are the niddles or pain we get in joints as the body cannot excret high amouts of Uric acid. The saddest thing is that manufacturers of soft drinks know that there is a problem, but are not doing enough to rectify the problem. Consumers have to pay with there own lives that is sad.