About a year ago, I was sitting on a crowded commuter train, pressed tightly in between several people. The man closest to me was on his phone, relaying the events of his day. About five minutes in to the ride, just as I was jostled closer to him, he began discussing his gout, in detail. Apparently, it had worsened, and he was going to have to return to the doctor’s the following week. Having no idea what gout was, I was more than a little disturbed, imagining a fungal rash creeping up this man’s leg and spreading to my own skin. What else could something called gout possibly be?It turns out that it could be a completely different condition involving painful swelling rather than skin-crawling rashes. Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood that results in pain, swelling and extreme tenderness in one or more joints, usually in the lower extremities. At times, the condition can be so severe that even the touch of a bed sheet elicits excruciating pain. Until recently it had been a disease of the past, appearing more frequently in discussions about the Victorian Era than in medical diagnoses. But that has all changed. The prevalence of gout has doubled in the United States, and it seems there is only one thing to blame: fructose.A 12-year study of 46,000 men over the age of 40 found that those with a fructose-rich diet had a significantly greater chance of developing gout. If, for example, they had two or more sugary soft drinks a day, their risk was 85 percent higher than if they had only one a month. Excessive amounts of sugary fruits and fruit juices also worsened the situation but not by as much. So if you’re looking for yet another reason to cut back on fructose, mainly in the form of soda, you’ve got one. Return gout to its Victorian roots, and leave the soda on the shelf.
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