According to UC San Francisco researchers, telomeres - the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells - were shorter in the white blood cells of survey participants who reported drinking more soda.
Elissa Epel, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UCSF and senior author of the study, said that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence disease development, not only by straining the body's metabolic control of sugars, but also through accelerated cellular aging of tissues.
Epel said that this is the first demonstration that soda is associated with telomere shortness and the finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level. Telomere shortening starts long before disease onset. Further, although we only studied adults here, it is possible that soda consumption is associated with telomere shortening in children, as well.
The authors cautioned that they only compared telomere length and sugar-sweetened soda consumption for each participant at a single time point, and that an association does not demonstrate causation.
The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.