NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 4, 2008

Men who consume two or more sugary soft drinks a day have an 85 percent higher risk of gout compared with those who drink less than one a month, a study suggests.

Cases in the United States have doubled in recent decades and it seems fructose, a type of sugar, may be to blame, the British Medical Journal study reports.  Experts from the United Kingdom said those with gout would be advised to cut out sugary drinks.

  • About 1.5 percent of the U.K. population currently suffers from gout and there has been an increase in numbers over the last 30 years -- although the condition is more associated with Victorian times.
  • The symptoms of painful, swollen joints, mainly in the lower limbs, are caused when uric acid crystallizes out of the blood into the joints.
  • U.S. and Canadian researchers said the increase in cases had coincided with a substantial rise in the consumption of soft drinks.
  • Previous research had also shown that fructose increases levels of uric acid in the bloodstream.

To look in more detail, the team carried out a 12-year study of 46,000 men aged 40 years and over with no history of gout, asking them regular questionnaires about their diet. 

  • Over the period, 755 newly diagnosed cases of gout were reported.
  • The risk of developing the condition was significantly increased with an intake level of five to six servings of sugary soft drinks per week.
  • This link was independent of other risk factors for gout such as body mass index, age, high blood pressure and alcohol intake.
  • Diet soft drinks did not increase the risk of gout but fruit juice and fructose rich fruits (apples and oranges) were associated with a higher risk, the researchers said.

Source: "Gout surge blamed on sweet drinks; Sugary drinks have been blamed for a surge in cases of the painful joint disease gout," BBC News, February 1, 2008.

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