Research just published in the American Journal of Public Health has found that people who drink soda have shorter telomeres. This is significant because people with shorter telomeres have shorter life spans and are at increased risk of serious diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Telomeres are the caps at the end of the chromosomes inside every cell in your body. Think of them like the ends of shoelaces. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco wanted to determine the mechanism behind the consumption of soda and subsequent poor health. They did this by looking at the telomeres in the white blood cells of soda drinkers.

The researchers analyzed data from 5,309 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The results were startling. Drinking 8 ounces of soda each day corresponded to 1.9 years of additional aging. Drinking 20 ounces each day was linked to 4.6 more years of aging. Interestingly, the latter is exactly the same association found between telomere length and smoking.

According to lead researcher Elissa Epel, PhD, “The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our body within seconds by drinking sugared beverages is uniquely toxic to metabolism”. If you need help getting motivated to quit soda, hopefully this knowledge will help you out.