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'Gout surge blamed on sweet drinks'

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What did the media say?

The media reported that the consumption of sugary drinks had been blamed for a surge in cases of the painful joint disease gout.

What did the research show?

Researchers, from Canada and the US, followed a large group of men, 46,393 in total, for 12 years. None of the subjects had gout at the start of the study.

A relatively small number of men, 755, developed the condition during the study, suggesting the absolute risk of gout is small. However, when the case data was compared with trends on soft drink and fructose consumption a significant link was identified.

The relative risk of developing gout in men who drank five to six sugar sweetened soft drinks a week was 29% higher than those who consumed less than one serving a month. The risk was 85% higher for those who drank two or more sugary drinks per day.

They also reported a significant link between fructose intake, from fruit juice or apples and oranges, and gout.

No relative risk increase was observed from drinking diet versions of soft drinks.

What did the researchers say?

Consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fructose is strongly associated with an increased risk of gout in men,’ the authors said.

‘Our results have important practical implications,’ they added. ‘The conventional low purine diet approach allowing fructose intake could potentially worsen the overall net risk of gout attacks.’

What does this mean for nursing practice?

Dr Andrew Bamji, president of the British Society for Rheumatology, said: ‘Anecdotally cases of gout appeared to be rising. When you think about it, the finding that soft drinks consumption may be a cause makes a lot of sense in that fructose raises the level of uric acid in the blood.

‘I always tell people to avoid yeast-containing foods – beer and Marmite are two such. However I will certainly adapt my advice to patients as I suspect the number drinking fructose-containing drinks is quite large.’

BMJ Online First (2008)

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