A Couple of Reasons That Will Make You Avoid Drinking Soda
How many sodas do you drink a day – one? Two? Maybe three of those cold fizzy cans?
Yes, they’re delicious, but they could be putting you at risk of a disease which causes the type of pain that makes you break out in a cold sweat: gout.
If you thought gout was something confined to the pages of Regency romances, think again. It strikes significant numbers of people to this day. By the time we reach the age of 60, about one in ten of us will have a tendency to gout attacks.
Gout is “a kind of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints. Uric acid is a breakdown product of purines that are part of many foods we eat.
An abnormality in handling uric acid and crystallisation of these compounds in joints can cause attacks of painful arthritis, kidney stones, and blockage of the kidney filtering tubules with uric acid crystals, leading to kidney failure.” (from a WebMD slideshow)
When gout attacks, it’s very quick: first a sharp pain in the joint (usually the one at the base of the big toe, sometimes in other toe joints or in fingers, or even in the elbow). This is followed by a reddening and swelling of the skin.
And the pain is intense. I can say that with confidence because I once, years ago, had an attack of gout. When a friend of mine tried, very gently, to touch the puzzling painful spot, I screamed like a steam train.
So I know exactly what they mean when they say you can’t bear the touch of a bed sheet on the affected area. And this can last for days, even weeks, before subsiding.
Gout is nine times more likely to hit men than women (women may tend to get it after menopause). It’s related to risk factors like a family history of gout, excessive weight gain (especially when the weight is gained in youth, so watch out for a rash of gout among our obese children as they age), high blood pressure and too much alcohol.
Scale back the sodas
Alcohol? Oh, yes, boo-hoo – but wait, there’s more! And this will have you switching to water and a slice of lemon at parties. In January 2008, a group of researchers published an interesting report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
This demonstrated that soft drinks were as important a culprit in the development of gout as alcohol.
In a study which looked at over 46 000 male health professionals in Canada, they found that drinking just one can a day increased the risk of gout by 45%.
Two or more cans upped it by 85%. And even those who had less than one a day had an increased risk – 29% for those who drank five cans a week.
Now compare that to a couple of alcohol risks: if you drink a beer a day, you boost your risk by 49%. Spirits provide cold comfort: just 15% per total.
University of British Columbia told WebMD on 31 January 2008: “We find that if you have high consumption of fructose your gout risk is doubled. And that is due to easily available sugary beverages.”
Fructose raises uric acid, and high levels of uric acid are linked to gout. So, obviously – diet soft drinks are not implicated.
In the past, doctors have tended to think in terms of purine-rich foods as the culprits: red meat, organ meats, and shellfish.
Dieticians will suggest a diet for gouty individuals that exclude things like anchovies, herring, kidney, liver, mackerel, meat extracts, bacon, tongue, crab, duck, goose, lamb, oysters, mincemeat, mussels, sardines, and yeast.
The World Health organisation has a list which includes vegetables like asparagus, cauliflower, lentils, peas, and spinach. Researchers who had studied the subject of purines extensively, has found that the purines in vegetables don’t increase the risk of gout (www.whfoods.com).
And, interestingly, dairy foods seem to actively decrease the risk.