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Blame Sweet Soda for Gout?

Soft Drinks Worse Than Hard Liquor for Gout, but Diet Sodas OK
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan 31, 2008 -- For gout, sweetened soft drinks are worse than hard liquor -- and nearly as bad as beer -- doubling the risk for heavy drinkers. Diet sodas, however, don't affect gout risk.

The findings come from a huge study of 46,393 male health professionals in Canada who filled out detailed questionnaires about their health and their diet every four years for 12 years. Over that time, 755 of the men developed gout.

Compared with men who almost never drank sugar-sweetened soft drinks -- fewer than one per month -- frequent soft-drink drinkers were significantly more likely to suffer gout:

  • Two or more soft drinks each day upped gout risk by 85%.
  • One soft drink each day upped gout risk by 45%.
  • Five or six soft drinks each week upped gout risk by 29%.

The men who drank the most soft drinks had twice the gout risk of the men who drank the fewest soft drinks.

That's comparable to the gout risk of men who drink two to four alcoholic beverages a day.

Beer raises gout risk by 49% per daily serving. A daily serving of spirits raises gout risk by 15%. Sweetened soft drinks, find University of British Columbia researcher Hyon K. Choi, MD, PhD, and colleagues, raise gout risk by 35% per serving.

"This is the first study -- and a very large one -- linking these commonly consumed products to this common disorder," Choi tells WebMD. "We find that if you have high consumption of fructose your gout risk is doubled. And that is due to easily available sugary beverages."

It's a surprising finding, says Karen Atkinson, MD, MPH, chief of rheumatology at the Atlanta VA Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at Emory University.

"It is a shock," Atkinson tells WebMD. "Most of us think of purine-rich foods as those that increase gout risk because they feed directly into the uric acid pathway. Certainly fructose processed by the liver can affect that pathway, but this is not what we usually think of."

Atkinson warns that while the Choi study definitely links soft drinks to gout risk, it does not prove that cutting back on soft drinks will lower that risk.

"But most doctors would agree that high-fructose carbonated beverages don't have any nutritional benefit. You don't want to be pouring high-fructose soft drinks into your body," she says.

Gout Risk: Food and Drink vs. Family History

Gout is an extremely painful form of arthritis in which uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints. It most often affects the big toe but commonly affects other joints in the leg. Men are more likely to suffer gout than are women, although women's risk greatly increases after menopause. Choi says about one in 10 people over the age of 60 develops gout.

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