Study: Soda ages the body

A daily soda habit could age you as much as smoking cigarettes, according to new research.

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health found regular soda consumption can age your body’s immune cells.

Researchers studied telomeres – the caps at the end of chromosomes – from white blood cells. Shorter telomeres have been linked to shorter lifespans, more stress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, according to a Time article.

The researchers found that people who drank more sugary soda tended to have shorter telomeres.

People who drank 8 ounce of soda every day had nearly two years of additional aging. Those who drank 20 ounces every day had 4.6 more years of aging, researchers found.

“The latter, the authors point out, is exactly the same association found between telomere length and smoking,” according to the Time article.

Researchers didn’t see any association between telomere length and diet soda intake or non-carbonated sugary drinks, such as fruit juice. Researchers suspect the results might be different if the data was more modern; the study used data from 14 years ago.

“We think that the jury’s still out on sugared beverages—theoretically they’re just as bad,” senior study author Elissa Epel told Time. “But 14 years ago people were drinking a lot less sugared beverages … they were mostly drinking soda.”

About 21 percent of adults in the study said they drank 20 ounces or more of soda each day, according to the article.

Telomere length dwindles naturally with age, but research has shown it’s possible to increase telomere length by stressing less and eating a healthy diet, according to the Time article.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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