Consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fructose is strongly associated with an increased risk of gout in men, according to a study recently published in the British Medical Journal. Gout is a joint disease that causes extreme pain and swelling. It is most common in men 40 and older. It is caused by excess uric acid in the blood (hyperuricemia), which leads to uric acid crystals collecting around the joints.
In the United States, gout levels have doubled over the last few decades, coinciding with a substantial increase in the consumption of soft drinks and fructose. Conventional dietary recommendations have focused on restricting purines, which can be found in high levels in meat, meat products (especially liver and kidney) and alcohol. Doctors traditionally do not recommended restricting sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
U.S. and Canadian researchers examined the relationship between intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fructose and the risk of gout. They followed more than 46,000 men 40 and older with no history of gout.
During 12 years of follow-up, the researchers documented 755 newly diagnosed cases of gout. Participants’ risk increased with greater intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks. The risk significantly increased with an intake level of 5–6 servings per week, and the risk was 85% higher among men who consumed two or more servings of sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day (compared to those who consumed less than one serving per month). Diet soft drinks were not associated with gout risk.
Fruit juice and fructose-rich fruits (apples and oranges) were associated with a higher risk of gout; however, the authors stress this finding needs to be balanced against the benefits of fruit and vegetable intake to prevent other chronic disorders (high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer).