High levels of uric acid in the body is associated with many heath problems. However, according to a new study in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, it may be therapeutic for women after experiencing a stroke.

In their study, explains a news release from the American Heart Association, the research team re-analyzed 2014 data based on URICO-ICTUS, a randomized, double-blind trial of patients admitted to stroke centers in Spain. All participants—which included 206 women and 205 men—were given therapies to remove the clots, while half in each gender group were also given either 1,000 mg of uric acid therapy or a placebo through IV infusion.

They note that 42% of women treated with uric acid therapy following a stroke had little to no disability after 90 days compared to 29% of women treated with a placebo. Women also had less dead tissue resulting from lack of blood supply after receiving uric acid. Among men, there was essentially no difference between uric acid treatment and placebo, the release explains.

“Women fare better with uric acid therapy because they tend to have less uric acid in their bodies,” says Ángel Chamorro, the study’s lead author and director of Barcelona’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, Hospital Clinic Chamorro, in the release.

“While high levels of uric acid can lead to other health problems, uric acid also helps protect tissue from harmful molecules known as free radicals,” he states.

A possible explanation, according to the release, is that in ischemic stroke—the most common form of stroke—a clot lodges in an artery supplying oxygen to the brain. When doctors successfully remove a clot, oxygen re-enters the brain, but it also releases free radicals, which may damage surrounding tissue. Uric acid counteracts the release of the free radicals, minimizing the damage.

Women in the study were, on average, 7 years older than the men, and they were more likely to have irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and other conditions, the release notes. As younger, healthier stroke victims are treated, the results should be even more impressive, Ángel states in the release.

More data are needed before uric acid becomes standard clinical practice, according to the release. In the future, the research team would like to determine whether uric acid also could benefit men—perhaps those with naturally lower levels of uric acid or high levels of blood sugar and other metabolic conditions that fuel the release of free radicals, per the release.

[Source: American Heart Association]