Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might induce aging in white blood cells, causing a greater risk of cardiometabolic disease. That is concluded by researchers of the University of California-San Francisco in an article, recently published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Previous research proved that in leukocytes, length of telomeres – caps protecting the ends of chromosomes – is associated with symptoms of aging, like tissue damage, inflammation and chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Also, a connection was already found between sugar-sweetened soda consumption and insulin resistance. Therefore, the authors decided to study the relation between the drinking of soda and telomere length.
The researchers interviewed 5,309 participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which American health and nutritional status were assessed between 1999 and 2002. Adults of 20 to 65 years old, not suffering from cardiovascular disease or diabetes, were asked for their soda consumption. Subsequently, telomere length of all participants was determined from their DNA.
On average, study participants consumed 0.3 litres of sugar-sweetened soda. This is a level in excess of the American Heart Association recommended limit for added sugar. One fifth of them even drank more than half a litre of soda daily. The more soda was consumed by the participants of this study, the shorter their telomeres were. According to calculations done by the researchers, drinking half a litre of soda daily equals approximately 4.6 additional years of aging.
"Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence disease development", says Prof. Elissa Epel, senior author of the study. "Not only by straining the body's metabolic control of sugars, but also through accelerated cellular aging of tissues." The authors point out that shortening of the telomeres already starts before diseases actually emerge. So, effects found in adults might also be present in children.
The conclusions found in this study are based on the comparison of telomere length and soda consumption at one point in time. Together with the fact that not all sodas contain the same amount of sugar, the authors propose the gathering of longitudinal data and more biochemical processes, like insulin resistance and oxidative stress. Also, lifestyle influence could be taken into account. In this way, the association between sugar-sweetened sodas and aging could be strengthened.
Sources: Medical News Today, American Journal of Public Health.
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