Uric Acid Caused by Meat and Sugar

Human beings lost the ability to detoxify uric acid millions of years ago. What implications does this have for our health today?

Our story starts about 15 million years ago. It was the Miocene epoch. Things seemed to be going pretty good until, it seems, two flaming meteorites smashed into whatís now Germany with an estimated power of a couple million Hiroshimas. As you can see in my 3-min. video Miocene Meteorites and Uric Acid, the crater looks quaint now, but at the time, there was a mass extinction event, wiping many animals out. Thankfully, the common ancestor of human beings and other great apes developed a mutation that may have helped them survive. We lost the ability to detoxify uric acid. Why is that a good thing?

Uric acid is naturally produced by the body and may help us hold onto fat, which is good when thereís not a lot of food around thanks to pesky asteroids. Uric acid also helps us retain sodium, which is good if there arenít a lot of salt shakers out on the savannah, and it also acts chemically as an antioxidant, which is good since green tea hadnít been invented yet.

Fast-forward 15 million years. When salt and calories abound, the last thing we need is more sodium and fat retention.

But the antioxidant part we like. Unfortunately, not all antioxidant compounds are necessarily good for us. For example, the preservative chemical BHA works by preventing the oxidation of foods, but is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

Similarly, uric acid is chemically an antioxidant, but when you have too much in your blood it can crystallize in your joints, causing a painful disease called gout. High uric acid levels may also put us at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and death. So keeping oneís uric acid levels low is an important dietary goal. How do we do that? By avoiding meat and sugarósee the above NutritionFacts.org video pick.

No surprise that the meat and sugar industries both got upset with the latest round of dietary guidance from the federal government. See†Dietary Guidelines: Pushback From Sugar, Salt and Meat Industries and†Dietary Guidelines: Corporate Guidance.

Gout is one of the “diseases of kings” that used to only affect the 1%, the tiny minority, eating rich diets. Now we can all dine like royalty three times a day and suffer from the same diseases. The “peasant food” choices, the cheapest plant foods, are often the healthiest. See†Eating Healthy on the Cheap and†Biggest Nutrition Bang For Your Buck.

For more on the dangers of excess sodium consumption see†Dietary Guidelines With a Grain of Big Salt and†Salt OK if Blood Pressure is OK?. For more on eating based on our evolutionary heritage, see†Paleolithic Lessons.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havenít yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my 2012 year-in-review presentation†Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: Rachel from Cupcakes Take the Cake / Flickr

Why Meat Causes Inflammation
Harvardís Meat and Mortality Studies
FDA-Approved Virus Meat Additive

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Natalie S.
Natalie S.2 years ago

Thanks for writing about this subject.

Mac C.
mac C.2 years ago

Need to cut more sugar out, that is hard for me - but have been making progress and will continue. Thanks!

Barb Hansen
Barb Hansen2 years ago


tiffany t.
tiffany t.2 years ago

Alcohol is one of the biggest culprits of gout

Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard2 years ago


Sandi C.
Sandi C.2 years ago


Mary L.
Mary L.2 years ago


Chris C.
Chris C.2 years ago


Bmr Reddy
Bmr Reddy2 years ago

good to know

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog2 years ago

How interesting - thanks for sharing! It's obvious that meat and sugar are losing out in practically all aspects these days, which is why I'm so glad I'm vegetarian - now all I need to do is get my pesky sweet tooth under control lol!