Conference Coverage

Higher water intake linked to less hyperuricemia in gout


AT ACR 2017

– While more hydration seems to improve gout, there’s little research into the connection between the two. Now, a new study suggests a strong link between low water consumption and hyperuricemia, a possible sign that boosting water intake will help some gout patients.

While it’s too early to confirm a clinically relevant connection, “there is a statistically significant inverse association between water consumption and high uric acid levels,” said Patricia Kachur, MD, a third-year internal medicine resident at the University of Central Florida, Ocala (Fla.) Regional Medical Center. Dr. Kachur, who spoke about the findings in an interview, is lead author of a study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

Dr. Patricia Kachur

Dr. Patricia Kachur

Current knowledge about water consumption and gout is sparse. “We know that water helps prevent gout attacks in acutely hyperuricemic patients,” Dr. Kachur said, “but not a great deal is known about the role of water intake in chronic uric acid regulation.”

An abstract presented at the 2009 ACR annual meeting reported fewer gout attacks (adjusted odds ratio, 0.54; 95% confidence interval, 0.32-0.90) in 535 gout patients who reported drinking more than eight glasses of water over a 24-hour period, compared with those who drank one or fewer.

For the new study, Dr. Kachur and her colleagues examined findings from 539 participants with gout (but not chronic kidney disease) out of 17,321 individuals who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2009 to 2014.

Of the 539 participants, 39% were defined as having hyperuricemia (6.0 mg/dL or greater), with the rest having a low or normal level. Those with hyperuricemia were significantly more likely to be male and have obesity and hypertension.

The investigators defined high water intake as three or more liters of water per day for men and 2.2 or more liters for women. Of the 539 participants, 116 (22%) had high water intake.

The researchers found a lower risk of developing hyperuricemia in those with higher water intake, compared with those with lower intake (adjusted OR, 0.421; 95% CI, 0.262-0.679; P = .0007).

“These findings do not say anything about water and gout – not yet anyway,” Dr. Kachur said. “Rather there is a possibility that outpatient water intake has an association with lower uric acid levels in people afflicted by gout even after considering multiple other factors such as gender, race, BMI, age, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus.”

Dr. Tuhina Neogi

Dr. Tuhina Neogi

Tuhina Neogi, MD, PhD, lead author of the 2009 study into gout flares and water intake, cautioned that water may not be as beneficial as it appears. “It’s possible that it wasn’t the higher water intake that is influencing serum urate but rather other dietary or lifestyle factors that go along with drinking more water that may be beneficial,” said Dr. Neogi, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University, in an interview.

Indeed, she and her colleagues decided against publishing the results of their 2009 study “because there is a major challenge in interpreting these data.”

“Given that people only consume a finite amount of liquids each day, is it that consuming more water is beneficial or that drinking less of ‘bad’ fluids (for example, sodas, sugar-sweetened juices) is beneficial? We were not able to disentangle this issue,” she explained.

Still, she said, there are explanations about why water intake could be beneficial for gout. “Intravascular volume depletion increases the concentration of serum urate, and increased serum urate beyond the saturation threshold can result in crystallization,” she said. “With heat-related dehydration, there may also be metabolic acidosis and/or electrolyte abnormalities that can lead to decreased urate secretion in renal tubules, and an acidic pH can decrease solubility of serum urate.”

Dr. Neogi does encourage appropriate gout patients to make sure they drink enough water, especially if it is hot. She cowrote a 2014 study that linked gout flares to high temperatures and extremes of humidity, which can lead to dehydration (Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Aug 15;180[4]:372-7).

“The amount of water intake that is beneficial for gout is not known, so patients should follow general recommendations for water intake. In addition, I strongly encourage patients with gout to avoid or limit the amount of liquid consumed in the form of regular sodas and sweetened drinks or juices, particularly those with high-fructose corn syrup, and alcohol,” she said. “With regards to tea or coffee, if patients drink either tea or coffee, they can continue to do so and to use only low-fat or nonfat milk and little or no sugar.”

Meanwhile, she said, “there are some data to suggest that cherry juice – true natural cherry juice from fruit, not ‘cherry drinks’ – can be beneficial for gout. We are formally testing cherry juice in a trial.”

What’s next for research into water intake and gout? “The clinical correlation is missing in the study,” said Dr. Kachur, lead author of the new study. “Targeted surveys of gout patients, hopefully followed by a randomized controlled trial regulating water intake, can help make those connections.”

Dr. Kachur and other study authors reported having no relevant disclosures. Dr. Neogi reported having no relevant disclosures. No specific study funding was reported.


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