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Another reason to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages: They can raise the risk of gout

November 09, 2010|By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times

If you're a regular reader of Booster Shots, you are well aware that drinking lots of sugar-sweetened beverages is bad for your health. Primarily, those empty calories do damage to your waistline and are a major contributor to the steady weight gain of Americans over the last several decades.

But a study published online Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Assn. gives women another reason to avoid the drinks: They can increase the risk of gout.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Gout is a complex form of arthritis characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness and tenderness in joints, often the joint at the base of the big toe. …  An acute attack of gout can wake you up in the middle of the night feeling like your big toe is on fire. The affected joint is hot, swollen and so tender that even the weight of the sheet on it seems intolerable.”

That doesn't sound fun.

Researchers are beginning to think that gout is linked with metabolic syndrome, according to the JAMA study. And just like obesity, its incidence is growing. In 1977 there were 16 cases per 100,000 people, and by 1996 that figure had risen to 42 cases per 100,000 people.

RELATED: Drinking fewer sugary beverages could be linked to lower blood pressure

A previous study found that high consumption of sugary sodas, fruit juices and fructose was linked with an increased risk of gout in men. So researchers from Boston University and Harvard teamed up to look for an association in women. They looked at data from nearly 79,000 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. Here's what they found:

  • Compared with a baseline group of women who drank less than one serving of a sugary soda per month, those who drank one soda per day had a 74% increased risk of gout.
  • For women who drank at least two sugary sodas per day, the risk of gout was more than double that of the baseline group.
  • Women who drank one glass of orange juice each day were 41% more likely to develop gout compared with a baseline group of women who drank OJ less than once a month.
  • Women who drank two or more glasses of OJ each day had more than twice the risk of those in the baseline group.
All of the associations were seen even when researchers controlled for other gout risk factors, such as age, body mass index, use of diruetics and menopause. Drinking diet soda (which contains no sugar) had no affect on gout risk.

In the paper, the researchers explain that fructose consumption prompts the body to make more uric acid, the substance that causes tiny crystals of urate to build up in the joints and cause arthritis. In addition, they say that high fructose consumption can lead to insulin resistance, which also raises the risk of gout.

RELATED: Sugary colas linked to gestational diabetes

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