Fact or Myth: Sugary Sodas Accelerate Aging

This is a FACT

Telomeres are caps on the end of chromosomes that protect DNA from damage during cell division. Imagine the plastic caps at the end of shoelaces and you have a pretty accurate picture of telomeres. Telomere shortening has been linked to accelerated aging, as well as an increased risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, dementia, and death. New research from the University of California, San Francisco provides evidence that sugary sodas accelerate aging due to a possible impact on telomere length. Study participants who drank the most soda had shorter telomeres, and are therefore at an increased risk for premature aging and reduced longevity.

soda vending machineThe Link Between Sugary Sodas and Telomere Length

Using data collected on 5,309 American adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1999-2002, researchers determined that people who drank more soda had shorter telomeres in their white blood cells. Previous studies have shown that the length of telomeres in your white blood cells impacts your lifespan and your vulnerability to chronic disease. Study participants had no prior history of diabetes or heart disease and were between the ages of 20 and 65. On average, individuals drank 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened soda every day. Researchers calculated that drinking 20 ounces of soda daily adds 4.6 years to biological aging—an effect comparable to that of smoking! Regular consumption of soda also correlates with an increased risk for metabolic diseases due to accelerated cell aging.

How to Lengthen Your Telomeres

Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009 for discovering how telomeres protect chromosomes. Her research also shows that you can maintain and possibly lengthen telomeres in just three months by implementing positive lifestyle and nutrition habits, specifically no smoking, eating properly, exercising, staying socially connected, and appropriately managing stress. Cancer patients who made these lifestyle changes showed raised telomerase activity and telomere maintenance capacity in their immune-system cells after three months. So put on those running shows and tame your stress and tension to lengthen your telomeres and your longevity!

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