Friday, February 1, 2008

Sham: Sugary Soft Drinks and High-Fructose Corn Syrup

There has been an abundance of media interest concerning the dangers of diet drinks and products using artificial sweeteners like aspartame. With all those soda drinkers potentially switching over to regular non-diet drinks, I thought it might be interesting to report on some current work going on in the study of regular soft drinks and their ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup.

As it turns out, sugary soft drinks were recently linked to increased risk of gout in men. Gout is a joint disease which causes extreme pain and swelling. It is most common in men aged 40 and older. It is caused by excess uric acid in the blood which leads to uric acid crystals collecting around the joints.

In the United States, levels of gout have doubled over the last few decades, which coincided with a substantial increase in the consumption of soft drinks and fructose. Fructose is a simple sugar and the only carbohydrate known to increase uric acid levels, so it's a natural to be investigated as a gout-causing agent.

Researchers in the US and Canada examined the relation between intake of sugar sweetened soft drinks and fructose and the risk of gout and have reported on their findings in British Medical Journal Online.

They followed over 46,000 men aged 40 years and over with no history of gout. The men completed regular questionnaires on their intake of more than 130 foods and beverages, including sugar sweetened soft drinks, over a period of 12 years. At the start of the study, and every two years thereafter, information on weight, regular use of medications and medical conditions were also recorded. Gout was diagnosed according to American College of Rheumatology criteria.

During 12 years of follow-up, the researchers documented 755 newly diagnosed cases of gout. The risk of gout increased with increasing intake of sugar sweetened soft drinks. The risk was significantly increased with an intake level of 5-6 servings per week and the risk was 85% higher among men who consumed two or more servings of sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day compared to those who consumed less than one serving per month.

These associations were independent of other risk factors for gout such as body mass index, age, diuretic use, high blood pressure, alcohol intake, and dietary factors.

In conclusion, this huge study found plenty of evidence that consumption of sugar sweetened soft drinks and fructose is strongly associated with an increased risk of gout.


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