January 3/Taipei, Taiwan/Central News Agency -- Eating a vegetarian diet on a long-term basis is irrelevant to good health and might even contribute to high levels of uric acid and cholesterol, a doctor said.

Hung Chien-teh, director of the Metabolism Department of Yangming Hospital, a branch of Taipei City's 10-hospital healthcare system, told a press conference that the results of various studies have led to the finding that vegetarianism does not necessarily help reduce uric acid and cholesterol levels.

Hung pointed out that among his patients with high uric acid or cholesterol levels are many venerable monks who have been vegetarian for decades, some of whom are troubled by gout and heart disease.

According to Hung, one main reason for high levels of uric acid and cholesterol is that many vegetarian foods are fried in oil that contains trans fatty acids, which are unsaturated fatty acids that are extremely harmful to the health.

Citing another reason, he said vegetarians also eat a lot of bean products, including soya milk, tofu, bean sprouts and bean paste, which contain fairly high purine content that breaks down into uric acid.

A high level of uric acid in the blood can result in gout, while a high level of uric acid in the urine can contribute to kidney stone formation, he explained.

Hung suggested that people with high uric acid level problems should drink plenty of water and include a lot of green leafy vegetables and other alkaline foods in their diet, as well as seeking medical treatment.

From the January 7, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash