Drinking soda daily will age you as much as smoking

soda
CC BY 2.0 Mike Schmid

A new study reveals yet another reason to kick the soda habit: it makes your cells age faster!

Drinking a 20-ounce sugar-sweetened soda per day may age you as much as smoking, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study examined data from 1999 to 2002 of 5,309 US adults between the ages of 20 and 65, with no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Researchers compared the cells of people who drink soda daily and those who don’t drink any soda. The average amount of soda consumed per study participant was 12 ounces, but 21 percent of participants reported consuming at least 20 ounces per day.

They found that the more soda a person drinks, the shorter their telomeres become over time. Telomeres are the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells; they shorten and fail to regenerate as we age naturally, although there are certain behaviours, such as smoking, that shorten them prematurely.

“Drinking an 8-ounce daily serving of soda corresponded to 1.9 years of additional aging, and drinking a daily 20-ounce serving was linked to 4.6 more years of aging,” Mandy Oaklander reported for TIME. The scary news is that this “effect on telomere length is comparable to the effect of smoking.” (UCSF)

Elissa Epel, PhD and senior study author, explains:

“This is the first demonstration that soda is associated with telomere shortness. This finding held regardless of age, race, income, and education level. Telomere shortening starts long before disease onset… It is possible that soda consumption is associated with telomere shortening in children, too.”

This is yet another reason to avoid soda completely, which has already been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. These are all reasons that have driven legislators and activists to demand that governments tax sugary beverages in order to discourage consumption.

Interestingly, the researchers did not find the same effects in artificially sweetened soda drinks and non-carbonated sugary drinks, such as fruit juice.

Tags: Diet | Drinks | Health

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