As the level of uric acid increases, it activates a pathway that can result in inflammation, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction (mitochondria is where we make ATP or energy), increased blood pressure, obesity and insulin resistance. Because an elevated uric acid level can be an early warning sign for metabolic disorders and chronic health conditions, there are benefits to having your level checked regularly.
What causes uric acid to increase?
- Alcohol consumption – beer increases it the most, while wine impacts it the least.
- Foods high in purines – organ meats are the highest, while meat, poultry and seafood contain moderate levels. High levels of purines can create crystals in the joints, causing pain and swelling.
- Fructose – high fructose corn syrup, excessive amounts of high glycemic fruit and sugar. We’ve known these contribute to inflammation, but now we are also learning more about their specific role with uric acid.
I’m not recommending you stop eating fruit. A serving or two of fruit a day, especially lower glycemic fruits, is not going to raise your uric acid level. But, being mindful of the amount of fructose and sugar consumed plus eliminating all high fructose corn syrup found in sodas and processed sugary foods is important. Fructose stimulates fat production which our bodies store for future energy use. This was a survival mechanism for our hunter gatherer ancestors when they experienced periods of food scarcity. Many however, are privileged to have access to food year-round all day, every day. We no longer need to store extra fat for survival. If we continue to eat foods high in concentrated fructose or sugar, not only does it result in extra weight gain, but it also contributes to an imbalance of blood sugar. Blood sugar dysregulation can have a cascade effect, ultimately leading to insulin resistance, chronic fatigue and Alzheimer’s. In his book, Johnson cites studies indicating when elevated uric acid levels are decreased, the risk of developing dementia is significantly lowered.
Now that I’ve given you a bit of background on the challenges associated with fructose, it’s important to realize we not only consume fructose, but we can make fructose too.
- Alcohol activates an enzyme in our body to make fructose by converting glucose to fructose.
- An increase in salt turns on fructose production. Dehydration stimulates fat production as a way of storing water (think of camels). When the stored fat is burned, it produces both water and energy.
- A low fructose, low sodium diet resulted in a 70 fold increase in mitochondria function – which means an increase in energy.
- Low oxygen levels created by sleep apnea, besides disrupting sleep, increases fat production and produces more uric acid.
- Uric acid and obesity are being recognized with some cancers, as cancer may be able to spread easier when the uric acid level is elevated.
Recommendations for Lowering Uric Acid
The optimal level of uric acid is 5.5 or less. I’m a believer that knowledge is power because then we know what we’re working with and how much to shift things. If you have a suboptimal uric acid level, the good news is there are steps you can take to bring it into a healthier range:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a nutrient-dense, low fructose/low sugar, low sodium diet
- Focus on optimizing blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity
- Enhance mitochondrial function
- Consider supplementing with vitamin C and quercetin
Want to learn more?
Interested in a tailored plan to address your uric acid levels or other concerns? Please reach out, I would love to connect! If you want to dive deeper into the impact of uric acid, you may enjoy reading Nature Wants Us to Be Fat, or Dr. David Perlmutter’s newest book, Drop Acid.