A new study suggests that drinking sugar-sweetened soda may age the cells in your body as much as cigarette smoking does.
The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers examined data from a survey conducted between 1999 and 2002 of American adults who had no history of diabetes or heart disease.
The study compared the cells of people who drank sugar-sweetened soda daily and those who didn’t consume any soda at all.
the researchers concluded that consuming sugar-sweetened soda prematurely ages your white blood cells. Sodas adversely affect the health of white blood cells. Smoking cigarettes has the same effect on white blood cells, although the long term effects of smoking on the body are far worse than soda consumption. People who consume soda regularly put themselves at a higher risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Observing the end of the participants’ chromosomes, researchers found that regular soda consumption was associated with shorter telomeres. Telomeres are defensive units of DNA that are essential for cell division. These telomeres naturally shorten as we age and do not regenerate. When a telomere gets too short, its cell dies. The study concluded that sugary soda consumption prematurely shortens telomeres, just like smoking does.
Longer telomeres are an indication of being young and healthy, while shorter telomeres mean that you’re aging faster.
Consumption of sugary sodas resulted in shorter telomeres, but no link was seen between telomere length and dietsoda. The consumption of 100 percent fruit juice was linked to slightly longer telomeres.
Elissa Epel, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UCSF and senior author of the study, said, “Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence disease development, not only by straining the body’s metabolic control of sugars, but also through accelerated cellular aging of tissues.”
“This is the first demonstration that soda is associated with telomere shortness,” Epel said. “This finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level. Telomere shortening starts long before disease onset. Further, although we only studied adults here, it is possible that soda consumption is associated with telomere shortening in children, as well.”