Fizzy drink, genetics team up to cause gout

New research has identified a genetic variant which affects the occurrence of gout in individuals already at risk of the developing disease through high consumption of sweetened beverages.

Gout, a painful joint inflammation caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, is the most common form of arthritis in New Zealand. While a diet high in sugar and rich food is a known risk factor for developing gout, little is know about the mechanisms behind this association.

Now, a new study from University of Otago researchers has focussed on a gene, SLC2A9, which is involved removing uric acid from the blood stream. The researchers found that in a sample of over 1600 men, high consumption of sugary drinks combined with a particular variation  SLC2A9 gene, was linked to higher incidence of gout.

“When people with this gene variant consume sugary drinks, it takes on Jekyll and Hyde characteristics,” said lead author Associate Professor Tony Merriman in a media release, “the apparent function of the gene variant reverses, such that we think uric acid is instead transported back into the blood-stream 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 from the kidney. This was a quite unpredictable interaction,” he said.

The research, published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, has been widely cover this week in New Zealand. Examples include:

Radio New Zealand: Juice and fizzy may bring on gout
Newstalk ZB: Study finds link between fizzy drinks & gout
New Zealand Herald: Sugary drinks linked to gout – study
Otago Daily Times: Sugar reverses gene’s function
TV 3 News: Sugary drinks could increase risk of gout
NZ Doctor Online: Otago scientists find genetic link between sugary drinks and gout