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A Soda a Day Will Take 4 Years off Your Life…Really?

For all of us who enjoy imbibing on our favorite soda, I am afraid there is more bad news. Not only does soda consumption contribute to diabetes and obesity, apparently it will shorten our life span.

According to the researchers from the University of San Francisco, drinking soda regularly was associated with the accelerated shrinking of telomeres. You can read the report HERE.

What are telomeres, you ask?

Telomeres are specific DNA–protein structures found at both ends of each chromosome, and the primary purpose of telomeres are to protect our genetic data, making it possible for our cells to divide. It is the cell division that keeps the body healthy and thriving. However, every time the cells divides, the telomeres get shorter. Eventually the telomeres get so short they can no longer facilitate cell division. This leads to cell deterioration and death. Scientists do not know how to prevent telomere shortening, but there are lifestyle habits than can speed up the shortening process…and others that will slow it down.

Apparently, drinking soda will speed it up.

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The researchers examined cross sectional associations between the consumption of sugary sodas, diet sodas, and fruit juice. It included 5309 adults that had no history of diabetes or heart disease. The results showed that those who drank soda on a regular basis (at least one 12 ounce can a day) had shorter telomeres. Those who drank fruit juice had a marginal lengthening of telomeres, and those who drank  diet sodas showed no significant change.

The researchers calculated from their findings that drinking one 20 ounce soda a day would lead to average of 4.6 years of telomere shortening. That puts it in the same category of aging as smoking.

This is a big claim made by the researchers from the study, but is it really true?

It should come as no surprise that there are skeptics, and they say that there is no correlation to soda consumption and a decreased lifespan. For example Daniel Enberger, who wrote a rebuttal to the study, noticed that there was a contradiction in the study itself. The study that claims soda consumption will shorten lifespan, but that other sugary drinks such as fruit juice do not. I noticed this statement as well, and I was confused when I read it because I know that sugary drinks of any kind for a long time is a risk factor for diabetes, and thus the possibility of shortening lifespan whether the telomeres say so or not.

Daniel Enberger also makes a good counter point about the study claiming that a soda a day is as bad as smoking cigarettes. He points out that far more people consume sugary drinks daily than smoke, yet 440,000 people die each year from smoking but only 112,000 die from obesity. You can read his article HERE.

That’s not all. There have been several studies that attempted to find a correlation of telomere length and longevity, and as of 2016 the verdict is inconclusive. See Here, Here, and Here for a few examples.

This all brings us back to the main question about telomeres: can measuring the length of telomeres determine the lifespan of an individual, and if so can we take steps to slow down or even reverse the process of telomere shortening? I think the field has promise, but there is much research that needs to be done.

Personally, I cannot imagine that one can of soda a day will take almost 5 years off your life. The body is a bit more resilient than that.

Having said that, I would still recommend strictly limiting your soda intake. You will be healthier if you do.

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman

 

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