You knew that drinking sugary sodas could lead to obesity, diabetes and heart attacks — but it may also speed up your body’s aging process.

As you age, caps on the end your chromosomes called telomeres shrink. In the past several years, researchers at the University of California at San Francisc, have analyzed stored DNA from more than 5,300 healthy Americans in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from about 14 years ago. And they discovered that those who drank more pop tended to have shorter telomeres.

The shorter the telomere, the harder it is for a cell to regenerate — and so, the body ages.

“We think we can get away with drinking lots of soda as long as we are not gaining weight, but this suggests that there is an invisible pathway that leads to accelerated aging, regardless of weight,” said psychiatry professor Elissa Epel, senior author of the study.

According to the research, drinking a 20-ounce bubbly beverage every day is linked to 4.6 years of additional aging. You get the same effect by smoking, said UCSF postdoctoral fellow Cindy Leung, lead author of the study. About 21 percent in the sample said they drank at least that much soda each day. However, researchers say, a link does not mean causation.

Scientists found no link between cell aging and drinking diet sodas or fruit juices. But Epel said the results might be different with more modern data.

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

--WASHINGTON POST

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