Background: In some western populations, increased serum uric acid has been positively associated with cardiovascular disease, possibly because hyperuricaemia could be an untoward part of the insulin-resistant metabolic syndrome. However, there is evidence that uric acid is a free radical scavenger capable of inhibiting LDL oxidation. Amongst the traditional horticulturalists of Kitava, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, hyperinsulinaemia and abdominal obesity are absent or rare. In contrast, serum triglycerides are similar to Swedish levels.
Objective: To compare serum uric acid between nonwesternized and westernized populations.
Methods: Fasting levels of serum uric acid were measured cross-sectionally in 171 Kitavans aged 20-86 years and in 244 randomly selected Swedish subjects aged 20-80 years.
Results: There were small differences in serum uric acid between the two populations, although a slight increase with age was found only in Swedish males (r = 0.20; P = 0.03) and females (r = 0.36; P < 0.0001). Above 40 years of age, uric acid was approximately 10% lower in Kitavans, a difference which was statistically significant only in males, possibly because of the limited number of females. Regarding hyperuricaemia, two Kitavan males had uric acid above 450 micromol L-1 whilst none of the females was above 340 micromol L-1. Amongst the Swedish subjects, five of 117 males and 19 of 127 females had hyperuricaemia according to these definitions.
Conclusion: The rather similar uric acid levels between Kitava and Sweden imply that uric acid is of minor importance to explain the apparent absence of cardiovascular disease in Kitava.