In the time of relative innocence and peace before the rise of the machines (aka smartphones) and the war between fat kids and Michelle Obama over school lunches, there was plentiful soda and other sugary drinks and life was tasty.
In the 90s as a tween and a young teenager, I crushed three Squeezeits a day at lunch like a man, peeled back the foil top on a couple of juice grenades from time to time to add some gruffness to my voice, and drank approximately 13 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of Mountain Dew. I loved the stuff, and to a lesser degree I still consume it, but now I’m worried that my innards are about to conspire to wreck my pretty little face and sap my youthful exuberance thanks to a new study on the effects of soda on aging.
A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health just found that a daily soda habit can age your immune cells alost two years.
Senior study author Elissa Epel, PhD, professor of psychiatry at University of California San Francisco, wanted to look at the mechanisms behind soda’s storied link to conditions like diabetes, heart attack, obesity, and even higher rates of death. She studied telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes in every cell in our body, from white blood cells. Shorter telomeres have been linked to health detriments like shorter lifespans and more stress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, the study notes.
Epel and her team analyzed data from 5,309 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from about 14 years ago. They found that people who drank more sugary soda tended to have shorter telomeres. Drinking an 8-ounce daily serving of soda corresponded to 1.9 years of additional aging, and drinking a daily 20-ounce serving was linked to 4.6 more years of aging. The latter, the authors point out, is exactly the same association found between telomere length and smoking.
What about a Big Gulp a day? I feel like I should look like Bill Murray’s boss in Scrooged, but I don’t know that I can resist the fizzy make-happy juice.
Interestingly enough, the study’s findings don’t apply to people who drink diet soda, so I suppose that all of those people who think that they are Lifehack champions because they order a diet soda with their three double cheeseburgers actually may be on to something… until the next study, that is.