Associate Prof Tony Merriman has worked on a study that
found a new way sugary drinks can increase the risks of
developing gout. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Drinking sugary drinks can increase the risks of
developing gout by making a ''Jekyll-and-Hyde'' gene variant
turn bad, a University of Otago study has found.
The study's lead author, Associate Prof Tony Merriman, said
the findings showed for the first time that sugary drinks
reversed the benefits of a gene variant which usually
protected against gout.
Gout, which is caused by high levels of uric acid in the
blood, is the most common form of arthritis in New Zealand,
with particularly high rates in men.
When the variant of the gene SLC2A9 behaved correctly, it
helped transport uric acid out of the bloodstream and
facilitated its excretion through the kidney, Prof Merriman
''But when people with this gene variant consume sugary
drinks, it takes on Jekyll-and-Hyde characteristics; the
apparent function of the gene variant reverses, such that we
think uric acid is instead transported back into the
bloodstream and the risk of gout is increased.
''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,'' he said.
Previous studies had shown that in the general population
each daily 300ml serving of sugar-sweetened drink increased
the chance of gout by 13%.
Prof Merriman said the findings - especially because they
were gathered from New Zealand participants - added more
weight to calls to increase taxes on sugary drinks.
''They shouldn't be as cheap as they are.''
People should also be more aware of the amount of sugary
drinks they were consuming''If you have either got gout or
are at risk of gout, you should not be drinking sugary
drinks. I would say aim for zero.''
Alternatives included drinking coffee, which had been shown
to reduce the risks of gout, and sugar-free soft drinks.
The study, a collaboration between Otago and Auckland
Universities was published in the international journal
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases yesterday.
Dr Merriman wished to thank the study's participants and
Health Research Council and Arthritis New Zealand for