Bad news if you’re a soda drinker: according to a new study, downing just eight ounces of the bubbly stuff per day can age your cells by nearly an additional two years.
Researchers are the University of California San Francisco analyzed data from 5,309 adults by looking at numbers from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Specifically, researchers wanted to check the correlation between drinking soda and telomere length—which is the cap on every chromosome in the body, associated with shorter lifespan, higher stress, heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer, among other issues. The researchers found drinking just eight ounces of soda a day increased cell age by 1.9 years. Drinking 20 ounces increased cell age by 4.6 years—which is the same aging effect smoking has on your telomeres.
Interestingly enough, the link between soda and cell aging only seems to exist for sugary, regular variety—not diet. “The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our body within seconds by drinking sugared beverages is uniquely toxic to metabolism,” says study author Elissa Epel, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Interestingly, there’s no link between cell aging and sugary fruit juices either. For now, soda seems to be the main culprit affecting our telomeres in the beverage department.
Luckily, soda drinking has been on the decline since the researchers pulled these numbers from the survey nearly 14 years ago. And while telomeres normally and naturally shorten with age, past studies have shown you can actual help grow your damaged telomeres up to 10 percent by eating a healthy diet (without sugary soda) and cutting stress from your life. So if you’re still popping the top on regular Pepsis and Sprites, it’s time to settle on a new drink of choice.