Every one loves to enjoy a refreshing soda from time to time—especially me. Nothing beats going to Chipotle with your friends on a football Saturday in Penn State, and getting a burrito with an ice-cold root beer on the side. It became a small little tradition that my friends and I had every weekend. But, one Saturday, as I ate at Chipotle, a strand of lettuce fell down and landed on my protruding gut. Yikes. That’s when I realized my freshman fifteen was coming in. Immediately, I knew I had to change my habits. The first thing that had to go was my bubbly soft drink. It’s empty calories and abundance of sugar was something I could go without. All of this got me thinking about the harmful effects of soda. Yes, soda is unhealthy—practically everyone knows that. But, what other negative side effects does consuming a lot of soda have? This led me to do some research, and what I found was pretty astonishing.
A news study suggest that soda isn’t just unhealthy, but it makes you age faster. The research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco’s Ageing, Metabolism, and Emotion Center determined that in addition to obesity, soft drinks take a toll on your age. The variables that were tested in the study were telomeres found in the human body. Telomeres, the protective caps located at the end of the chromosomes, have been to shown to shorten when we age. Scientists believe that the younger you are, the longer your telomeres are, and vice versa. The study measured telomere length in the white blood cells of 5,309 healthy men and women between the ages of 20 and 65. The 3-year study determined that participants who drank 8 ounces of soda daily, showed an increase in age by 1.9 years, based on telomere shortness. Those who drank 20 ounces a day portrayed an increase in age by 4.6 years.
This information was all gathered based on telomeres. Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD, assistant dermatology professor, and a renowned columnist for Everyday Health, describes telomeres like “the plastic ends of a shoelace—they keep the shoe lace together. That’s kind of what a telomere is — it’s at the edge of DNA, helping to protect and repair it.” When telomeres get too short, they fall apart, thus dying. Now, whether this is causation or correlation, it is hard to tell. Therefore, I continued my research in hope of finding others experiments to support this data. Unfortunately, I could not find any similar experiments. This led to me to question the legitimacy of the experiment. First of all, the experiment was only conducted with about 5,000 subjects. Additionally, it didn’t say how the men and women were selected. To provide a true analysis, the subjects should have been randomly selected. This would help deduce correlation from causation, and any other confounding third variables. Furthermore, reverse causation is ruled out, as the subject’s telomeres were shorter after the study, then when they were measured before the study.
This study definitely opened my eyes and made me realize that everything we put into our body has an effect on us. Of course, the experiment that was conducted didn’t completely prove that drinking soda makes you older, but it did remind me of the pop quiz we had in class that discussed if blinds should be shut at bedtime. You might as well avoid soda, and you should close the blinds, because it is a small effort that can yield positive results for you. In the end, I think this was a great study to stumble across, as even though it wasn’t the best experiment, it made me have a bit of an epiphany when it came to consuming unhealthy things. It is safe to say that I will be a healthier, and hopefully no longer catching any strands of lettuce with my bulging gut.