Sugary soft drinks are taking a toll on our collective health. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health has demonstrated the ill effects of daily consumption: Healthy adults who drank an 8-ounce sugary soft drink every day, aged by 2 years more compared to healthy adults who did not. Healthy adults who drank a 20-ounce sugary soft drink aged by 4.5 years more!
How did the scientists reach this conclusion?
By examining the Telomere length of over 5000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted around the turn of this century.
OK, here’s the science. The cells in our body all have a nucleus with chromosomes that are replicated as the cell divides. The chromosomes, which contain genetic data, have protective end-caps called telomeres. Without the telomeres, individual chromosomes could get tangled up with each other.
With each division of the chromosomes (and the cell), the telomeres shorten a bit. When the telomeres are too short, the cell can’t divide anymore and dies.
Scientists have shown a correlation between telomere length and aging. The good (and bad) news is that telomeres are affected by external factors as well. We can lengthen them to some extent by reducing stress, sleeping more, and eating healthy food. And, as the recent study has shown, we can also accelerate the shortening of telomeres – by drinking too much sugary soda.
Interestingly, artificially sweetened sodas did not have a shortening effect on the telomeres. But there are plenty of other reasons to avoid them as well.