You've undoubtedly heard that diet can contribute to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but now your doctor's talking about high uric acid levels. What's that, you're wondering, and how are these test results connected?
Read more: List of Foods That Raise Uric Acid
All About Uric Acid
Uric acid is a byproduct of the metabolization of purine, a type of chemical compound that's both created by the body and ingested in many common types of foods, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Found in the blood, uric acid is filtered through the kidneys and excreted in urine.
One in five people will be diagnosed with elevated levels of uric acid, known as hyperuricemia, explains the Mayo Clinic. That, in turn, can lead to the development of uric acid crystals that settle within the kidneys, where they can form kidney stones, or settle in the joints, causing an arthritic condition known as gout with very painful flares.
Studies have shown that high uric acid levels are linked to many other health problems. Research published in June 2018 in the International Journal of Cardiology found that it can lead to high levels of both low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad kind) and high triglycerides, another blood fat.
In fact, the relationship can go both ways with triglycerides — high levels have been linked to an increased risk for hyperuricemia, according an April 2019 retrospective study published in Lipids in Health and Disease. Of 3,884 participants who had at least three annual health exams with their general practitioner, the chances of developing elevated uric acid levels were more than twice as high among those with above-normal triglycerides.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, elevated uric acid also has known links to conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and high blood pressure, so reining it in is a smart idea.
Lifestyle and Diet Fixes
High uric acid can be managed by making healthy lifestyle and diet choices and sometimes taking medication. According Mayo and Cleveland Clinic, food and drinks high in purine include:
- Game meats
- Organ meats such as liver, kidney, and sweetbreads
- Seafood, especially sardines, anchovies and shellfish
- Drinks containing sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
- Alcohol, beer in particular
If your uric acid level is high, consider avoiding these foods, cutting back on saturated fats by choosing lean meat, poultry and low-fat dairy and doubling up on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, suggests the Mayo Clinic. While some vegetables, such as spinach and asparagus, are high in purines, they are safe to eat, adds Mayo, because these plant-based purines don't increase the risk of developing high uric acid levels associated with gout attacks.
If high cholesterol is already a problem, Heather Carrera, DCN, CNS, nutrition and wellness coordinator at SUNY Geneseo, notes that diet can help here too. "Foods like oily fish, green leafy vegetables, low-glycemic-index fruits — like berries, tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, green tea, organic soybeans, dark chocolate, pomegranate, nuts and seeds, garlic and even red wine — can all help optimize cholesterol," Carrera says.
A number of diet plans may help, especially if you have other conditions linked to high uric acid. According to a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in May 2018, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option to fight fatty liver disease. Another, published in March 2014 in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, suggests it's good for preventing Type 2 diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet, as well as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a vegan lifestyle, can be part of a high blood pressure control plan. Nicole Shillinger-Vogler, RD, LDN, certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor at the Functional Health Center in Philadelphia, says to "eat fresh and frozen veggies with no added salt and calcium- and magnesium-rich food like hemp seeds, dark greens, milk and milk alternatives."
Also know what to avoid, notably processed foods high in sodium such as deli meats, sausages, canned products and frozen meals. "Usually people eat too much of these foods and not enough nutrient-dense foods that provide vital minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium, all of which help lower blood pressure," Schillinger-Vogler says.
Is This an Emergency?
- Lipids in Health and Disease: “Hypertriglyceridemia and Hyperuricemia: A Retrospective Study of Urban Residents”
- Mayo Clinic: “High Uric Acid Level”
- Mayo Clinic: “Gout Diet: What’s Allowed, What’s Not”
- Cleveland Clinic: “High Uric Acid Level”
- Heather Carrera, DCN, CNS, nutrition and wellness coordinator, SUNY, Geneseo, New York
- Nicole Schillinger-Vogler, RD, dietitian, personal trainer, Functional Health Center, Philadelphia
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Mediterranean Diet and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease”
- Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews: “Mediterranean Diet and Type 2 Diabetes”
- International Journal of Cardiology: “Elevated Serum Uric Acid Increases Risks for Developing High LDL Cholesterol and Hypertriglyceridemia: A Five-Year Cohort Study in Japan”