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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 [1] 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 [2]

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 [3].

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 [4]

Wikipedia: Gout [5]

That’s Fit: Coffee Helps Prevent Gout [6]

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds [7]