Is Soda As Deadly As Smoking Cigarettes?

It is well known that both soda and cigarettes are detrimental to your overall health; however, a new study has focused on their effects on lifespan, looking at the length of the telomeres at the end of chromosomes.

Telomeres are the protective caps on the end of our chromosomes which indicate an adult’s lifespan and general health. As telomeres shorten, cells age and eventually die. The length of telomeres is affected by many lifestyle choices, like diet, exercise, and stress management.

Short telomeres have been linked to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as aging overall. Behavior that shortens telomeres is not necessarily the cause of disease, but these choices increase the risk and it is wise to avoid such habits.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at white blood cells and analyzed the length of the telomeres inside. The sample size used was 5,309 adults in relatively good health between the ages of 20 and 65.

The researchers chose to look at the effects of various sugary and diet beverages, such as diet soda, non-carbonated sugary drinks, fruit juice, and sodas, on the length of telomeres. 12 ounces of soda was consumed on average while a fifth of the participants drank 20 ounces daily.

According to the results, diet sodas and non-carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages have no effect on telomere length, and fruit juice was associated with longer telomere length by a margin. The only beverage associated with shorter telomere length in the experiment was sugar-sweetened soda.

According to the research, consumption of 20 ounces of soda daily is the same as aging 4.6 years when considering the length of telomeres. Previous data from numerous studies showed that this shortening of the telomeres was comparable to those in cigarette smokers.

Soda’s reputation has been decreasing over the years, with ties to diabetes, obesity, heart attack, and gout in women; and now it has been associated with a pro-aging effect in cells. This study is not the final authority in this field, however, as many other studies will be conducted in the future.

The lead researcher, Elissa Epel, stated that “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”.


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