Sugary drinks have long been known to cause all sorts of health problems and the list of their negative effects keeps growing steadily. It now turns out that they also heighten the risk of developing gout, a form of arthritis caused by the crystallisation of uric acid in the joints.
The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand, who estimate that every daily 300ml serving of sugary drinks raises the risk by 13%. The findings of the study have been published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases journal.
Tony Merriman, associate professor from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Otago, explained that sugar-sweetened beverages were found to trigger a reverse reaction from a gene variant that typically protects against gout. The variant in question is of the SLC2A9 gene, which helps remove uric acid from the blood and excrete it through the kidneys. But that is the situation when the variant behaves correctly, and the consumption of sugary drinks interferes with its proper function, Merriman said.
The research team recruited 1,634 subjects between 2007 and 2012, studying blood samples with a specific focus on SLC2A9. Their analyses showed that sugary drinks appear to reverse the function of the gene variant, making it carry uric acid back into the blood stream instead of transporting it out, thus raising the risk of gout. It seems that sugar not only increases uric acid levels but is also a direct inhibitor to its excretion from the kidneys, Merriman said.