These 3 Diet Tweaks Can Enhance Your Metabolism & Support Longevity
There are more than a few markers to help gauge your own metabolic health status, like blood sugar levels, blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and more. One that hasn't received a ton of attention in the health care space is uric acid—but according to board-certified neurologist David Perlmutter, author of Drop Acid, it might just be the most important (and sneakiest) marker of all.
Uric acid is a waste product found in the blood, created when the body breaks down fructose and chemicals called purines. High levels of uric acid are commonly associated with joint tenderness and pain, but Perlmutter says high levels can affect your metabolic health at large. "Uric acid is a powerful mediator of metabolic mayhem," he says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. Essentially, it tells the body to prepare for food and water scarcity—a fundamentally important survival mechanism but not so good when it happens consistently.
So to promote metabolic health, uric acid plays a crucial role. Here, Perlmutter shares his tips to balance your uric acid levels and, as a result, enhance your metabolism:
Lower fructose consumption.
The first step, says Perlmutter, is to dramatically limit fructose consumption. "Fructose is ultimately metabolized to form uric acid," he explains. That being said: "We've got to hang it up on the sugar."
Meaning, limit your intake of refined, artificial sweeteners and anything with "high-fructose" on the label. "Table sugar is 50% fructose," says Perlmutter, and high-fructose corn syrup contains at least 55% fructose. And that doesn't take into account the number of "pseudonyms" sugar goes by on food labels. "You read them and say, 'Well, I don't know what that is, but it's obviously not going to hurt me.' No, that's sugar, and it's time that we call it out," says Perlmutter.
You're probably wondering: What about fruit? Doesn't fruit contain a natural amount of fructose? Perlmutter certainly doesn't want you to demonize fruit, but he makes a case for a few special staples. "A moderate amount of fruit is not going to be threatening," he explains. In fact, some fruits contain important bioflavonoids that can actually help reduce uric acid (which we'll get into later). "Mangoes, unfortunately, have a lot of fructose," says Perlmutter, which is why he eats them in moderation (although, he has two mango trees in his yard, so he doesn't cut them out completely!).
Mix up your spices.
Ready for a not-so-fun fact? You can go completely fructose-free, with not a drop of fructose in your diet, and your body can still make fructose on its own. It's your body's own survival mechanism: "When signals that clue your body into thinking it's not going to have food tomorrow are activated, then you make fructose," says Perlmutter. One of those signals happens to be we aren't hydrating enough, which causes a high concentration of sodium. "We have mechanisms in the kidneys that sense when sodium levels are higher, then we start to convert blood sugar into fructose to make more body fat," explains Perlmutter.
That's why Perlmutter decided to cut back on salt-laden foods and table salt so that his sodium levels do not become too concentrated. "Once I began to understand how it was triggering me to make fructose and raise uric acid, [my added salt] went away." Now, he flavors his food with other fragrant spices, like black pepper, ginger, and turmeric. In fact, many of these have extra benefits for metabolic health.
Of course, you can always drink more water to keep your sodium levels balanced. "If you're going to eat a lot of salt, by all means, drink a lot of water. Then your serum sodium doesn't go up, and you don't turn on this pathway," says Perlmutter.
Get your fill of quercetin.
Remember when we talked about important bioflavonoids that can reduce uric acid? Well, here we are. According to Perlmutter, a specific enzyme in your body called xanthine oxidase helps develop uric acid. So if you target that enzyme, you can potentially block the formation of uric acid.
"Well, it turns out that you can target that enzyme really aggressively with quercetin," says Perlmutter. "One recent study from England showed that 22 young males with elevated uric acid had an 8% drop of uric acid in just two weeks1 by taking 500 milligrams of quercetin [per day]." Plenty of foods also contain the potent antioxidant (like apples, berries, and tomatoes), which is why Perlmutter doesn't say you should knock fruit completely—or you can find plenty of quercetin supplements with that targeted 500-milligram daily dose.*
According to Perlmutter, it's time we pay closer attention to uric acid levels in the name of your overall health. As a neurologist, Perlmutter is quite familiar with the link between metabolic and brain health2, which makes uric acid significant both for your metabolism and your longevity at large.