Drink soda and grow old
by Mary Budinger —
Soda is guilty of fostering myriad health problems, especially diabetes and heart disease. Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco took a deeper look at the mechanism involved and found the sugary beverages make the cells of our immune system age faster. The telomeres were shorter.
Telomeres are like the caps at the end of shoelaces that keep them from unraveling. In the body, telomeres are caps at the end of chromosomes, and the shorter they are the less time that cell has to live.
Researchers analyzed data of 5,300 adults from 1999 to 2002 who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. These adults had no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Yet those who drank sodas had shorter telomeres in their immune system cells.
Drinking an 8-ounce soda every day amounted to 1.9 years of additional aging. Drinking a 20-ounce soda every day amounted to 4.6 years of aging — exactly the same association found between telomere length and smoking.
“The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our body within seconds by drinking sugared beverages is uniquely toxic to metabolism,” said lead author Elissa Epel, a professor of psychiatry at the university.
Researchers did not find the same effect in those who drank diet sodas or noncarbonated sugary beverages, like fruit juice. But she thinks the results might be different if the data were more modern. “Fourteen years ago people were drinking a lot less sugared beverages — they were mostly drinking soda.” At the time of the study, 21 percent of adults in the study reported consuming 20 ounces or more of sugar-sweetened soda each day.
Previous research shows that it is possible to increase telomere length by as much as 10 percent over five years by stressing less and eating a healthy diet — no soda included.
Source: American Journal of Public Health, October 2014.
Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about nutrition and integrative medicine. 602-494-1999.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 6, December 2014/January 2015.