Uric acid forms in your body when protein is metabolized. Elevated levels of uric acid – a condition known as hyperuricemia – are associated with gout, hypertension (high blood pressure), and liver and kidney problems. Your levels can be checked with either a blood or urine test, but those are usually part of a diagnostic workup, and generally not included in the routine bloodwork you’d have done at an annual physical. Unless you are having symptoms of a condition that is caused by, or might be caused by hyperuricemia, you probably don’t need regular testing.
You should be aware, however, that diets high in protein are predictably associated with high uric acid levels, as are diets high in fructose (including the high-fructose corn syrup found in so many products today). One study showed that children with high blood pressure had significantly higher uric acid in their blood than children with normal blood pressure. Another study found that inducing hyperuricemia in rats led to a corresponding increase in hypertension as well as injury to blood vessels. That same study theorizes that hyperuricemia may trigger metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions (high blood sugar, hypertension, belly fat, and high cholesterol) that raises your risk of both heart disease and diabetes.
The question about the relationship between uric acid and Alzheimer’s disease, however, is complex. Uric acid is an effective antioxidant that has been shown in some studies to have a protective effect against cognitive decline. A 2018 review published in the journal Nutrients looked at research involving thousands of study subjects and concluded that hyperuricemia is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and with slower disease progression in Parkinson’s dementia, but may be linked to a higher risk of other forms of dementia. Ongoing studies will be needed to help clarify the relationship between cognitive decline and uric acid.
Since uric acid has unproven associations with dementia but well-founded connections to other health conditions, I would suggest you continue to follow healthy eating patterns that will help prevent your levels from becoming elevated. Although you probably don’t need regular testing of your uric acid level, your provider will likely recommend it if you have symptoms of gout, kidney stones, or certain other conditions.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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