Miocene Meteorites and Uric Acid

“Miocene Meteorites and Uric Acid” It all started about
fifteen million years ago. It was the Miocene Epoch and 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 onto 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 animals retained
an enzyme to get rid of the stuff. Fast-forward fifteen 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.

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