Liquid Aging

sodatopWhen I was running on the cross country team in high school, there was a runner who swore off soda because he thought it reduced his heart-lung capacity.

Later, I volunteered at a water station during a triathlon. We couldn’t believe we’d been given liters and liters of Coke in addition to Gatorade and water. Surely none of the athletes would drink it, but the first person who got to us did. It turns out drinking soda during a race is a way to settle an athlete’s stomach ache.

Despite that good effects of soda, the sugary drinks have been associated with health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Now a study links them to premature aging. The study  followed 5,309 people between the ages of 20 and 65 from 1999 to 2002. It showed that those who drank at least one daily eight ounce serving of soda were biologically 1.9 years older than their peers who didn’t drink soda everyday. Those who drank 20 ounces per day were 4.6 years older. The results are similar to the premature aging found in smokers.

So how did the researchers determine the soda-drinking subjects were older than the others? Telomeres are a part of cells that help them replicate and they shorten throughout a person’s life span. Their lengths seem to be associated with a person’s age (Click here to read my earlier post about them).

The question now: what is the connection between telomeres and soda, if any? There might be other lifestyle choices made simultaneously with soda consumption, like eating fast food each day (and drinks that come with those meals tend to be even more than eight ounces). Either way, Dr Cindy Leung, lead author of the study states it best, “Studies like ours provide initial discoveries that can be explored further in experimental studies, which help determine the nature of this important relationship.”

I guess the next question will be: If there is a link between premature aging and soda, will people stop drinking it?

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