Uric Acid could quite possibly be the biggest culprit to developing metabolic disease. Research continues to link the role of uric acid and the development of diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and metabolic syndrome. Meaning, uric acid not only plays a significant role in the disease process but could actually be the cause of most chronic illnesses.
Mindblowing, right?! so let’s explore… what is uric acid and why is it important?
What is Uric Acid?
Uric acid is a chemical created by the breakdown of foods and beverages that are high in purines. Foods like seafood and beer rank high on this list. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the combo of seafood and alcohol also increases the risk of gout. This is because high levels of uric acid in the blood, known as hyperuricemia, can cause gout and also kidney stones. Gout is a very painful inflammatory response from uric acid crystals being deposited into joints, most commonly the toes, ankles, and knees. But, gout is easily treatable and you can resume your normal life.
However, treating metabolic diseases related to high uric acid isn’t as easy. Chronic metabolic diseases, like diabetes, is often for life. Therefore, preventing metabolic disease is key, which means we need to focus on reducing uric acid levels.
This brings us back to how uric acid accumulates in the blood in the first place. Uric acid, measured with a blood test, typically ranges between 3.5 and 7.2, but >7 is when you’re at high risk for health complications. Uric acid builds up from eating a diet high in purines and/or problems with uric acid elimination. Most uric acid is removed from the body primarily filtered through the kidneys and excreted in urine and a smaller portion is removed through the GI tract.
However, there is a condition called Asymptomatic Hyperuricemia, which means you have high uric acid in the blood but no symptoms. Traditionally in today’s medical practice, the only symptoms of high uric acid are the presentation of gout or kidney stones. Yet research is showing that asymptomatic hyperuricemia can cause weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and more!
So if you have elevated uric acid, it’s likely caused by your diet and/or kidneys being unable to filter properly, although there can be other less common causes as well.
What Does Uric Acid Do to Your Body?
When uric acid levels get too high in the blood they cause an immune response of inflammation. This inflammation can lead to problems in the gut like leaky gut, which causes you to have problems with digestion and absorption of food but also increases the risk of disease. Inflammation in the blood vessels contributes to increased blood pressure and more strain on the heart, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
High levels of uric acid in the blood cause more oxidative stress and reduce nitric oxide levels. Triggering a pro-inflammatory state and less glucose to be absorbed in cells, which leads to less sensitivity to insulin. A lot of fancy lingoes to basically say eating foods/drinks high in purines causes elevated uric acid, meaning your insulin is less effective and this turns your body into a state of chronic inflammation prone to disease.
What Are Purines?
Purines are found naturally in certain foods and beverages. When digested, purines break down into uric acid. Uric acid is primarily eliminated through the kidneys, but any complications with elimination and uric acid build up in the blood. High blood levels of uric acid may present as gout or kidney stones, but something much more severe is going on metabolically inside.
Too much uric acid interferes with insulin’s role, which is to regulate blood sugar levels. This interrupts how sugar is digested and absorbed, but also causes cells to become resistant to insulin. This process leads to increased inflammation and insulin resistance which typically manifests with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, more weight gain, eventually prediabetes, and finally diabetes.
“A growing body of evidence demonstrates that uric acid might play a pathophysiological role in many “cardio-nephro-metabolic” disorders” (Desideri et al., 2014).
To help reduce levels of uric acid and minimize the risk for metabolic disease, it’s a good idea to limit foods and drinks that contribute to increased levels of uric acid.
Alcohol, especially grain alcohol, is notorious for elevating uric acid levels. Beer, vodka, and whiskey are the worst offenders, so try to scale back on these to lower uric acid levels.
Red meat should be consumed in moderation for more than one reason. Obviously, red meat increases purine intake but also increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
But the most important one to limit is FRUCTOSE. Refined sugars, especially fructose, increase uric acid levels. Fructose is found in nearly all processed foods on the market today like soda, most juices, candy, fast food, prepackaged meals, and snacks. But also salad dressing, ketchup, granola bars, and cereals.
Within minutes of drinking a soda filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup your uric acid levels elevate. Fructose triggers the body for hibernation, turning it into a fat-storing mode. Whereas glucose provides energy, fructose actually depletes the body of energy and causes you to store more calories for later use.
How Do You Know Your Uric Acid Level?
If you’ve had any recent labs done with your healthcare provider you can probably check your uric acid levels, as this is typically done with routine bloodwork. Another way to measure your uric acid levels is with an at-home uric acid test kit
Tips to Lower Uric Acid Levels
“Using the American College of Rheumatology criteria for gout, we found that the risk of gout decreased with increasing vitamin C intake, up to a 45% lower risk at the top vitamin C intake category of 1500 mg or more” (Choi, Gao & Curhan, 2009).
- Diet low in Purines – Limit refined FRUCTOSE and other foods high in purines like: Sugary food/drinks, HFCS/Fructose, certain seafood, alcohol, red meats/organ meats.
- Vitamin C – Provides an immune boost, but also helps to excrete uric acid levels from the body. Whole fruit contains natural fructose, but also vitamin C and fiber, which helps to slow the speed of fructose absorption and rid the body of excess uric acid.
- Vitamin D – studies showed that vitamin D supplementation, or just sitting outside a few minutes a day, can help reduce UA levels
- Hydration – staying hydrated will help flush the uric acid out through the kidneys and help keep your kidneys working in top gear.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.