Sugary drinks turn a benevolent gene variant into an evil, gout-producing one, according to a new study in New Zealand. The study was published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
A form of arthritis, gout occurs when uric acid acid forms crystals in the joints – often notably in the big toe. Uric acid is a waste product in the blood. Gout's been called “the disease of kings,” because of its association with gluttony and a rich diet. In the past half century the prevalence of gout in the general U.S. population has more than doubled, according to Scientific American. Gout now afflicts more than eight million American adults. About 3.9 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with the condition at some point. It's the most common inflammatory arthritis among men, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Researchers studied blood samples from 1,634 people of European, Maori and Pacific ancestry. They focused on the SLC2A9 gene, which, when behaving correctly, helps rid the bloodstream of uric acid. However, they found that when people with SLC2A9 chug a sweet drink, something else happens.
"When people with this gene variant consume sugary drinks, it takes on Jekyll and Hyde characteristics," Tony Merriman, study leader and associate professor from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Otago, said in the article, according to Medicalxpress.com. "This study shows that sugary drinks reverse the benefits of a gene variant which would usually protect against gout," said Merriman. "So, not only does sugar raise uric acid in the blood due to processing in the liver, but it also appears to directly interfere with excretion of uric acid from the kidney. This was a quite unpredictable interaction."
Researchers found that consuming sugar-sweetened drinks increases the risk of gout in New Zealanders, independent of their weight, with each drink increasing the chance of gout by 13 percent.
"Evidence is now even stronger against sugary drinks," he said.
In related news, recent research revealed that though vitamin C may reduce the risk of developing gout, it doesn't help lower uric acid levels in people who already have it. In other words, gout sufferers, put down the sugar-sweetened O.J.