By Dawna Matthews:
We are faced with many choices each day. We make decisions that seem automatic and others which take some conscious thought. Each decision affects us on some level, and often times we don’t even realize it until several years later, especially if it is routine. The power of these everyday decisions is that they add up over time and shape our lives, some even our health and wellness.
One decision that seems relatively harmless is what to drink. There are definitely so many choices — water, coffee, tea, juice, as well as the alternatives within these options. And that doesn’t even begin taking alcohol into account.
A popular daily choice for people is soda. Recent studies at the University of California San Francisco have indicated that consuming a sugar sweetened soda daily shortens our lifespan. The study revealed that telomeres, which protect DNA from deterioration and are associated with lifespan, are shorter in white blood cells of people who drink sugar sweetened carbonated soda on a daily basis. The study compared the cells of people who don’t drink any soda with those who drink an average of 12 or more ounces of soda per day. The researchers did state that the people surveyed had participated in an extensive study from 1999-2002. This study of telomeres and soda examined only a snapshot of the extensive study. Researchers will be conducting further studies that will track data over weeks and longer periods of time. The regular consumption of these sodas may influence disease development because it strains the body’s mechanism to control sugars as well as accelerates the aging of tissues. Shorter telomeres also have been indicated in people who suffer from preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
We all understand sugar isn’t exactly the healthiest of food and drink options, but what is surprising is that a soda habit of just 8 ounces a day can age your cells almost 2 years. Even more realistic is that most daily soda drinkers typically consume 20 ounces or more. According to the the study, led by Elissa Epel and other UCSF researchers, drinking 20 ounces of soda per day biologically ages us about 4.6 years. “This effect on telomere length is comparable to the effect of smoking,” according to Cindy Leung of the UCSF study group.
As we know, aging cannot be stopped; however, we can make lifestyle choices to help promote healthy aging and not speed it up unnecessarily or add preventable diseases. Finding ways to minimize stress, to eat foods high in nutritional value, as well as to exercise all help us age gracefully. Studies like this help inform us so we can make better decisions daily, which over time will effect our health and, apparently, our lifespan. Let’s choose to drink to our health, and drink less sugary soda!
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