It’s no secret that a sugar-sweetened soda isn’t the healthiest beverage choice. A new study now suggests that these sugary drinks might be associated with cell aging.
Chromosomes are capped by structures called telomeres, which protect our DNA from damage. Telomere length has strongly been linked to human life span. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco say that short telomeres are associated with the chronic diseases that go hand in hand with aging.
“There’s been some large-scale, epidemiologic studies linking shorter telomeres with obesity, higher risks of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and also some cancers,” said lead author Cindy Leung, ScD, a UCSF postdoctoral fellow.
In the recent UCSF study, white blood cell telomeres were shorter among participants who drank more soda. In fact, drinking one 20-ounce soda a day was linked to 4.6 years of additional cell aging.
“The limitation of our study is that it’s an observational study and doesn’t prove causation,” said Leung. “But, at the same time, the link between drinking soda and shorter telomeres suggests that this relationship might truly exist.”
For the study, researchers obtained stored DNA from over 5,000 people aged 20 to 65 who had no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes. After measuring the telomeres, they noticed that telomere length was associated with the amount of sugar-sweetened soda a person drank. The findings only add to the growing body of research regarding the health hazards of soda consumption.
A 2013 observational study led by the National Institutes of Health actually found that people who consumed more than four cans or cups of soda per day were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who drank no soda. Another 2013 study out of Purdue University also linked diet soft drinks to weight gain.
“We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of added sugars in the American diet and has been linked to so many different health outcomes,” said Leung.