Miocene Meteorites & Uric Acid

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

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

It all started 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 what’s now Germany, with the estimated power of a couple million Hiroshimas.

The crater looks quaint now, but at the time, there was a mass extinction event, wiping many animals out—but not the common ancestor of the great apes (of which we are one), who developed a mutation that may have allowed them to thrive. They 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 on to fat, which is good when there’s not a lot of food around, with the pesky asteroids and all.

Also helps us retain sodium, which is good if there aren’t a lot of salt shakers out on the savannah. And, it helps act chemically as an antioxidant, which is good, since green tea hadn’t been invented yet. 

The problem is, it’s a tightrope. You don’t want to have too much in your blood, which may be why other mammals retained an enzyme to get rid of the stuff. 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 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 crystalize into your joints—a disease called gout. And a high uric acid level may also put us at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and death.

So, keeping one’s uric acid levels low is an important dietary goal. And, we’ll explore how, tomorrow.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

 

Images thanks to 36ophiuchiJay MatternesH. Raab; and James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia; Don Davis; and tedmurphy via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

It all started 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 what’s now Germany, with the estimated power of a couple million Hiroshimas.

The crater looks quaint now, but at the time, there was a mass extinction event, wiping many animals out—but not the common ancestor of the great apes (of which we are one), who developed a mutation that may have allowed them to thrive. They 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 on to fat, which is good when there’s not a lot of food around, with the pesky asteroids and all.

Also helps us retain sodium, which is good if there aren’t a lot of salt shakers out on the savannah. And, it helps act chemically as an antioxidant, which is good, since green tea hadn’t been invented yet. 

The problem is, it’s a tightrope. You don’t want to have too much in your blood, which may be why other mammals retained an enzyme to get rid of the stuff. 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 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 crystalize into your joints—a disease called gout. And a high uric acid level may also put us at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and death.

So, keeping one’s uric acid levels low is an important dietary goal. And, we’ll explore how, tomorrow.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

 

Images thanks to 36ophiuchiJay MatternesH. Raab; and James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia; Don Davis; and tedmurphy via flickr

Doctor's Note

This is the first of a three-part video series on sugar. What does uric acid have to do with sugar? Stay tuned for Flesh and Fructose. Gout is one of the “diseases of kings” that used to affect only 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.

For more context, check out my associated blog post:  Uric Acid From Meat and Sugar.

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