A clinical study investigated the link between sodium intake and the level of uric acid, a risk factor for developing gout, in hypertensive patients. While the effect of sodium was minor, a healthier diet successfully reduced blood levels of uric acid.
Salt is known to exacerbate the taste of food and therefore, it is present in large amounts in prepared meals, processed food, and fast food. The sodium (Na+) contained in salt (NaCl) is essential for proper function of the body and is implicated in the regulation of blood pressure as well as in the function of muscles and nerves. However, we usually eat much more salt than what we need and the excess can be problematic. The most obvious effect of high-salt diet on the body is an increase in blood pressure, leading to hypertension. Another problem associated with a high-salt diet is an elevation of the blood levels of uric acid, which is an important factor in the development of gout. This disease affects about 750 thousand Americans and causes painful inflammation in articulations (joints).
A recent clinical study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology by a team of Americans researchers investigated the effects of a healthy diet (the DASH diet) with low, medium or high sodium intakes compared with a typical American diet with the same sodium intakes. Participants (103) were adults with pre- or stage 1 hypertension and were assigned to serve to one of the two diet groups and feed with the 3 sodium level diets for a month each in a randomised order. The level of uric acid in the blood was measured at the end of each period. The healthy diets included whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, with a low intake of red meats, sweets, and saturated fats”.
Before the study, the mean level of uric acid in the blood of patients was 5.0 mg/dL. After the healthy diet, regardless of the sodium level, uric acid was reduced by 7%. Noteworthy, the effect was maximal in patients with the highest blood levels of uric acid at the beginning of the study. However, lower-sodium diets did not reduce the level of uric acid. Surprisingly, the greater reduction was observed with the medium and high sodium diets, in both the control and the DASH diet groups. Therefore, the adoption of the DASH diet, with a moderate consumption of sodium, could be beneficial to prevent the development of gout for a person with elevated levels of uric acid.
Written By: Jean-Michel Bourget, PhD