FEBRUARY 4 — High blood uric acid levels (hyperuricemia) can come from intake of foods high in purine or fructose or both, as well as from poor excretion of this acidic waste due to weakened kidney functions. Uric acid is widely regarded as the end-product of purine breakdown by our body. However, there’s much more to this health issue than most people are aware of.
Some of the health issues associated with hyperuricemia include:
- High blood pressure: elevated uric acid level is an independent predictor of future hypertension (Takase et al., 2014). Even for hypertensive adolescents the lowering of their blood uric acid levels can lower their blood pressure too.
- Heart disease: high fructose-induced serum uric acid levels are associated with cardiovascular disease (Johnson et al., 2007), particularly those with pre-existing hypertension. One reason is hyperuricemia can reduce concentrations of endothelial nitric oxide, which is essential for health of the inner lining of our arteries.
- Gout: the blood level of uric acid that triggers gout (joint aches/deformities) varies from individual to individual. Risk is higher in those who are obese (BMI >27), with a family history of gout, having poor kidney functions, and suffer from lead exposure. Do not mix up with the other painful joint condition rheumatoid arthritis, which is triggered by the body’s immune defence system (autoimmunity).
- Kidney stones: uric acid in kidneys can crystallise with minerals such as calcium to form stones, but not everyone with hyperuricemia develops renal stones. Uric acid forms about 9 per cent of all kidney stones (Khan et al., 2016).
- Insulin disorder: hyperuricemia is linked to higher risk of diabetes mellitus Type 2 irrespective of your level of blood fats/sugar (Dehghan et al., 2007).
- Syndrome X: hyperuricemia caused by high intake of fruit sugar or fructose-based soft drinks plays a role in promoting metabolic syndrome as evidenced by increasing number of Malaysians who are overweight and obese. Indeed, uric acid stones are more common among people with metabolic syndrome or obesity (Pasalic et al., 2012).
Fructose results in about 50 per cent higher triglycerides (stored fat) production than glucose (common sugar from grains). Those with BMI of 25 or higher tend to have shorter lifespan compared to those with ideal BMI of 22.
High-purine sources include organ meat, seafood such as lobster, herring, sardines and anchovy. Moderately high purine foods include seafood in general, livestock, eel, oatmeal, beans, nuts, peas, lentils, mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, beer, and wheat products (bread, noodles, buns, biscuits, pastries). Contrary to popular belief, foods such as beans or those with moderately high level of purine cause little or no risk of gout (Choi et al., 2007). Consequently, regular consumption of fructose from sweet fruits and soft drinks is much more likely to raise your uric acid levels. This is especially so if little or no green vegetables are consumed.
Why would fructose from sweet fruits or soft drinks cause health problems despite the fact that its glycermic index (GI) is very low? Fructose has also been used as a major component of many so-called ‘slimming’ food substitutes. The GI system fails to highlight the dangers in consuming excess amount of this very popular sugar since it doesn’t acutely stimulate the fat-storing hormone insulin or the appetite-suppression hormone leptin, nor does it inhibits the hormone GHrelin. These hormones have serious implications for weight (fat) gain and obesity that we see in emerging economies including Malaysia. Fruit sugar is probably the only known type of sugar that raises uric acid levels in addition to slowing down your metabolism. A lower metabolic rate can mean higher levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. Both sucrose (table sugar) and honey also contain high percentages of fructose. Many adults regard fruit sugar as being ‘natural’ and have even been advised by mainstream clinicians to have five servings of fruits daily. As a naturally occurring keto sugar, fructose consumption does not assure health safety (Bray, 2010). There is also some evidence to suggest that high fructose intake during pregnancy and lactation can lead to metabolic dysfunction in both the mother and the newborn (Sloboda et al., 2014).
High-fructose corn syrup
It’s a cheaper form of processed sugar extracted from corn grown in abundance in North American under their Federal subsidies and is widely incorporated into virtually all western-formulated soft drinks and snacks since fructose tastes sweeter than cane sugar.
Low uric acid
Surprisingly, some research suggests that very low serum uric acid can worsen multiple sclerosis (Toncev et al., 2002). Even raising these patients’ blood uric levels could result in their reduced relapse rates.
Limited research evidence shows that moderate levels of plasma uric acid may act as an antioxidant. If your blood uric acid levels are elevated and causing you problems, you may wish to consider a higher intake of alkaline food items such as banana, green tea, cucumber, coconut water, and dietary fibre.
Elevated uric acid levels can be lowered by taking powdered celery seeds, juicing
fresh celery, and/or drinking alkaline water with a pH of say 9. Seek assistance
from a qualified nutritional medicine practitioner (www.anmp.org.my) if you wish to be guided on this natural uric acid detoxification therapy.
* Prof Datuk Seri Dr Steve Yap is the Dean of the School of Complementary/Traditional Medicine & Allied Health at Genovasi University College.
** This is the personal opinion of the columnist.