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Sodas with Sugar May Age Cells

Researchers led by Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for telomere-related discoveries, measured the telomeres in white blood cells of 5,309 participants, ages 20 to 65, with no history of diabetes or heart attacks. They found that people who drink sugared sodas daily have shorter telomeres than those who drink fruit juices or artificially sweetened drinks (American Journal of Public Health, published online October 16, 2014). No other drinks were associated with shortened telomeres. Taking a 20-ounce sugared soda every day is associated with 4.6 years of cellular aging. Many previous studies have associated sugared drinks with obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart attacks.

What Are Telomeres?
Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of genetic material called DNA. They protect the DNA from being destroyed when cells divide to form new cells. Cells form new cells by splitting in half to make two copies of DNA, sending one copy to each of the two new cells formed. DNA has sticky areas that attach to everything. So when a cell divides and the DNA splits to form two copies, the DNA would stick to other DNA and be destroyed. Telomeres are like the caps on the end of shoe laces that prevent the ends of DNA from fraying and stacking together and being destroyed. More on telomeres

Each time a cell divides to form two new cells, the end piece of a telomere is lost to shorten its total length. Therefore aging shortens telomeres, so the older the cells in your body, the shorter the telomeres in your cells. Many previous studies show that shortened telomeres are associated with oxidative damage, inflammation, and insulin resistance to cause a shortened lifespan, and increased risk for the diseases of aging, including heart attacks, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Telomere shortening starts long before a person develops diseases of aging. This association holds regardless of age, race, income or education level.

The authors of this study did not propose any reason for the association between sugared sodas and shortened telomeres.

My Recommendations
I recommend avoiding all sweetened drinks except during vigorous exercise. The safest drink for quenching thirst is water. Sugared drinks, artificially sweetened drinks and alcoholic beverages have all been found to increase your risk for obesity, diabetes and heart attacks.
See: Sugar for Prolonged, Hard Exercise
Artificial Sweeteners: Root of Diabetes and Obesity Epidemics?
Reducing Alcohol Intake May Help to Prevent Heart Attacks

Checked 4/22/17

October 26th, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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