Drinking soda regularly can age the body just as much as smoking regularly, a new study finds. A team of public health researchers, led by the University of California San Francisco's Elissa Epel, looked at the cellular impact of regular soda consumption (diet sodas were excluded). Specifically, they looked at the length of study participants' telomeres: the caps at the end of chromosomes that, as they describe it, "protect the genomic DNA from damage."
Telomeres naturally get shorter as we get older. But separate research has shown that certain behaviors, such as smoking, can also cause shrinkage. And shorter telomere length is associated with a higher risk for heart disease and some cancers. Epel and her team used the federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that those who drank more soda tended to have shorter telomeres. They found that each daily 8-ounce serving of soda (two-thirds of a can of Coke) was equivalent to an additional 1.9 years of aging. A daily 20-ounce serving (the standard, plastic bottle size for sodas) was associated with 4.6 years of additional telomere aging — the same damage researchers have previously found among regular smokers.
This is just one study and, as the researchers write, research into telomere's associations with health conditions is a "relatively new field." But it's part of a growing body of research showing that soda, albeit, delicious, is terrible for our health.
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