A study published this week provides shocking data about what soda might do to our life span. A team at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine measured the length of telomeres, the caps of chromosomes related to aging, in blood samples of about 5,000 people.
The samples were taken from people between the ages of 20 and 65 who had no evidence of heart or diabetic disease. They were given to Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009 who discovered the enzyme telomerase.
Researchers looked at detailed dietary records of all those studied, including what kinds of beverages they consumed daily. They found that those who drank the most sugary soda had shorter telomeres.
In fact, the telomeres were so much shorter that they predicted greater cellular aging (by almost five years) from drinking 20 ounces of soda.
To put this in perspective, that's the same degree of telomere shortening seen with daily smoking — which suggests that sugary soda is as dangerous as cigarettes.
They found no significant effect from diet sodas, non-carbonated sugar drinks, or fruit juices on telomere length.
Is the study perfect?
Of course not. Although done in well-respected research centers, it was an observational study with a single dietary recall and a single blood sample. However, given that 50% of people drink consume soda on any given day, the implications of these habits on developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and overall shorter lifespans may be tremendous.
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