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The #1 Worst Drink That Ages You Faster, Says Science

This popular beverage could be speeding up the aging process, researchers say.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Since time immemorial, people have been trying to find the proverbial fountain of youth—and the pursuit for an ageless appearance along with a longer, healthier life remains a major goal for countless people today.

While anti-aging creams and devices, supplements that promise greater longevity, and diets that claim to turn back the clock may help you look or feel younger, there may be an easier way to slow down the aging process. Research indicates there's one drink that can age you faster—but cutting it from your diet could help stop your premature aging in its tracks.

Which beverage is worst for premature aging?

drinking soda

Science says that, when it comes to aging, there's no drink worse than sugar-sweetened soda.

According to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, sugary drinks can cause premature aging on a cellular level.

To conduct their study, researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) examined data from 5,309 U.S. adults between ages 20 and 65 with no history of cardiovascular disease whose information was compiled as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1999 to 2002.

What the researchers found was that individuals who drank more sugar-sweetened drinks had shorter telomeres—sections of DNA at the end of chromosomes—within their white blood cells. Shortened telomeres in white blood cells have been linked to reduced longevity and an increased risk of chronic disease.

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"Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence disease development, not only by straining the body's metabolic control of sugars but also through accelerated cellular aging of tissues," explained the study's senior author Elissa Epel, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at UCSF, in a statement.

"This is the first demonstration that soda is associated with telomere shortness," added Epel. "This finding held regardless of age, race, income, and education level. Telomere shortening starts long before disease onset." Epel added that, while the study was conducted exclusively on adults, this may hold true for children, too.

While the study's researchers were quick to point out that this finding is an association, not definitive causation, the long-term effects are quite pronounced. "For a daily consumption of the current standard 20-ounce serving size for sugar-sweetened sodas, this corresponds to 4.6 additional years of aging," the study found, an amount of telomere shortening similar to that associated with smoking cigarettes.

RELATED: The #1 Worst Drink to Have After 50, Says Dietitian

This isn't the only study that's linked sugar-sweetened beverages and faster aging, however. A 2021 review published in Current Nutrition Reports found that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, was associated with changes to gut bacteria, inflammation, and oxidative stress, all of which are linked to premature aging. That study's authors had a simple recommendation to help mitigate these effects: drinking something healthier.

So, the next time you have a craving for something bubbly, maybe consider a seltzer instead—your body will thank you.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah
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