(Time) – Nobody would mistake sugary soda for a health food, but a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health just found that a daily soda habit can age your immune cells almost 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.