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How does a diet full of processed meat affect health?

A recent Chinese study published in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated dietary patterns and their effect on hyperuricemia, a major factor in gout.

Diet and nutrition are key factors in overall health. Previous studies suggest that certain foods are associated with various diseases related to metabolism. One example is hyperuricemia, a disease where the body has an abnormally high level of uric acid in the blood. A high level of uric acid in the blood is the main cause of gout, a type of arthritis where uric acid crystallizes in joints. High uric acid levels result from a combination of factors such as sex, age, genetics, and diet.

Researchers examined the dietary patterns of Chinese adults who were recently diagnosed with hyperuricemia. The study included 1422 adults with high uric acid levels and 1422 adults with normal uric acid levels. Their work was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Using a food frequency questionnaire that included 100 food items, researchers gathered information about the dietary patterns of the participants. From the information they collected, the team identified the key foods that characterize three main dietary patterns: “sweet,” “vegetable,” and “animal foods.” The main foods characterizing the “sweet” pattern were candied fruits, cookies/cakes, and ice cream. The “vegetable” pattern included high frequencies of vegetables, whole grain cereals, and soya products. Seafood, animal organs, and processed meats were the key items in the “animal foods” pattern.

Participants also answered socio-demographic questions (sex, age, and education level) and questions about lifestyle (smoking status, drinking status, sleep, and exercise frequency). They also recorded blood pressure, cholesterol, waist circumference, and other basic health measurements. Anyone who reported a major change in their lifestyle during the last five years was excluded from the study.

After adjusting for demographic and lifestyle factors, researchers found that participants with newly diagnosed hyperuricemia tended to follow the “animal foods” dietary pattern. Participants who ate lots of sugary drinks and sweet snacks were also more likely to have the disease.

By accounting for many of the behavioral, socio-demographic, and lifestyle factors, this study focuses mainly on the effect of diet on high uric acid levels in the blood. A diet full of seafood and processed meat is linked to high uric acid levels. In contrast, diets rich in vegetables are not associated with hyperuricemia.

Written by Cindi A. Hoover, Ph.D.

Reference: Xia Y et al. A dietary pattern rich in animal organ, seafood, and processed meat products is associated with newly diagnosed hyperuricaemia in Chinese adults: a propensity score-matched case-control study. 2018. British Journal of Nutrition 119:1177-1184. doi:10.1017/S0007114518000867

Cindi Hoover PhD
Cindi Hoover PhD
Cindi has a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of Delaware and a B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary. Her research focused on the genetics and molecular biology of corals. Cindi gained scientific writing experience through her many years of work in genomics and molecular biology laboratories. She is excited to contribute to Medical News Bulletin and to help others learn about cutting-edge scientific research. In her free time, Cindi enjoys hanging out with her family, swimming, hiking, and photography.


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