A surge in the painful joint condition called gout among American men is linked to a rise in drinking sodas and other sugary soft drinks, a study published Friday suggests.

In an unusually long-term study, more than 51,000 male dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians aged 40 years or more in the United States and Canada filled in questionnaires on their health, weight, medications and diet, and updated the information every two years thereafter.

Those who were already diagnosed with gout and those who could not be contacted for the follow-up were taken out of the analysis, leaving more than 46,000 volunteers.

A total of 755 new cases of gout were diagnosed during the 12-year span of the study, which was launched in 1986.

The risk of the disease increased in line with the intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

Those least likely to develop gout were men who drank less than one serving per month.

Compared with that group, men who drank five to six servings a week were 29 percent likelier to develop gout. This probability rose to 45 percent among those who had one servings per day, and to 85 percent among those who drank two servings or more.

The risk was proportionately higher among drinks containing fructose as a sweetener rather than sugar.

Diet soft drinks, though, did not boost the propability of gout.

The paper also found an increased risk of gout among those who consumed large quantities of fruit or fruit juice containing naturally occurring fructose, such as apples and oranges. But that risk, the authors say, has to be balanced by the known health benefits of fruit.

The study, published online by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), is authored by Hyon Choi, a rheumatologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Gout happens when excess uric acid builds up in the blood, causing uric acid crystals to form around the joints, inflicting extreme pain and swelling.

Cases of gout have doubled in the United States in the past few decades, coinciding with a rise in soft-drink consumption.

PARIS, Feb 1, 2008 (AFP)


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