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Sugary Sodas Don't Just Make Us Fat—They Age Our Cells

Oct 22, 2014 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
A brand new study conducted by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) calculated that the daily habit of consuming a 20-ounce soda was associated with 4.6 years of additional aging.

The study revealed that telomeres—the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells—were shorter in the white blood cells of survey participants who reported drinking more soda. The findings were first reported in the American Journal of Public Health. Telomeres have been associated with the development of chronic diseases of aging, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

“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,” said Elissa Epel, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry of UCSF and senior author of the study.

“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.”

--Sarah Hagerty