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Medicine

Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres 422

BarbaraHudson writes Those free soft drinks at your last start-up may come with a huge hidden price tag. The Toronto Sun reports that researchers at the University of California — San Francisco found study participants who drank pop daily had shorter telomeres — the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells — in white blood cells. Short telomeres have been associated with chronic aging diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The researchers calculated daily consumption of a 20-ounce pop is associated with 4.6 years of additional biological aging. The effect on telomere length is comparable to that of smoking, they said. "This finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level," researcher Elissa Epel said in a press release.
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Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres

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  • Overly broad? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:07PM (#48181935)

    Can they be a little more specific as to what it is that's in the soda that is causing this?

    • by Teresita ( 982888 ) <badinage1&netzero dot net> on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:10PM (#48181953) Homepage
      Next they'll go, "People who consume quantities of glucose in Snickers bars and donuts equivalent to drinking a bunch of soda pop daily also have diabetes and short telemeres. Never mind!"
    • Re:Overly broad? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:15PM (#48181983) Homepage

      Can they be a little more specific as to what it is that's in the soda that is causing this?

      Nope, it's only an observation. No causation at all. And, of course, without any useful info from TFA, one can't tell if this is just another crap study done by some medical student or something with a degree of actual thought behind it. Off to see if the 'American Journal of Public Health' is accessible.

      • Link to the study. (Score:5, Informative)

        by DeadDecoy ( 877617 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:32PM (#48182061)
        Here's a link to the study: study [aphapublications.org]. They performed a cross-sectional study across some 5000 adults, looking at the effect of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), non-carbonated SSBs, diet soda, and fruit juices. They adjusted for sociodemographic and health-related characteristics, and found that SSBs are correlated with shorter telomeres (b=–0.010; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.020, 0.001; P=.04); fruit juice with longer telomeres (b=0.016; 95% CI=0.000, 0.033; P=.05), and no difference for diet sodas and non-carbonated SSBs.

        I'm not sure how to interpret the results, as the study does not explain what the effect size is, or how impactful it is to general health. If there are any biologists in the crowd who can explain this, that would be super helpful.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AK Marc ( 707885 )

          no difference for diet sodas and non-carbonated SSBs.

          No difference from the SSBs, or no difference from the fruit juice?

          Based on that, it requires sugar and carbonation. Diet carbonated beverages are the same as non-carbonated SSBs. The problem isn't the sugar. The problem isn't the carbonation. It's the mix of both.

          At least thats what I think you are saying. I don't have time to read it all at the moment.

          • by LordKronos ( 470910 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @07:49PM (#48182707)

            No difference from the SSBs, or no difference from the fruit juice?

            Neither. Read that sentence again, and I think it's pretty clear they are comparing all 4 to a baseline level (not sure what that is or how they get it). Think of it like:
            basline = x
            carbonated SSBs = x-1
            fruit juice = x + 1
            non-carbonated SSBs = x
            diet carbonated SSBs = x

            And just to be certain I am interpreting it right, I took the 15 seconds (literally, that's how long it took me) that you couldn't to click the link, skim the 1 page summary, and find: "No significant associations were observed between consumption of diet sodas or noncarbonated SSBs and telomere length."

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              I didn't think it made sense that juice had benefits over control (whatever that is). What would "control" be? Water? Milk? Blood?
        • I wonder if the discovery is a cause or an effect.
          People with shorter telomeres may simply prefer a sweeter drink.
          Show me a study that compares the peoples telomeres before and after a experimental change in habits/intake and I will listen.
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Exactly what I'm thinking. I respect peer-reviewed research, and take results seriously - preferably consensus positions, but on lesser researched topics, individual studies. But isn't this pretty useless without more details? Is it sugar consumption? Then diet soda doesn't count. Is it phosphate consumption? Then are all kinds of other foods also a threat? Is it caffeine? If so, then coffee is a threat and caffeine-free soda is fine. Is it other lesser ingredients, such as certain flavorants or colorants?

    • Re:Overly broad? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:21PM (#48182003) Journal
      I'd go with 'no' and 'no'. Yes, the end goal is to discover the cause, the mechanism, and the effect as precisely as possible; but the universe of possibilities is absurdly gigantic, easily larger than you could ever afford to study.

      So what do you do? You start by trying to cut the search space into more manageable chunks with this sort of study, which doesn't provide the level of precision you ultimately want; but can (relatively) cheaply and easily provide some leads on what is worth looking at in greater detail and what isn't.
    • Re:Overly broad? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:22PM (#48182013)

      From the study abstract: "After adjustment for sociodemographic and health-related characteristics, sugar-sweetened soda consumption was associated with shorter telomeres (b=–0.010; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.020, 0.001; P=.04). Consumption of 100% fruit juice was marginally associated with longer telomeres (b=0.016; 95% CI=0.000, 0.033; P=.05). No significant associations were observed between consumption of diet sodas or noncarbonated SSBs and telomere length."

      More: http://ajph.aphapublications.o... [aphapublications.org]

    • As soon as they figure out whether or not salt is bad for you, I'll be interested in their opinion on soda.

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:11PM (#48181955)
    I spent a few years drinking 128oz of Mountain Dew every workday. I'm down to 24oz now of Throwback, but I'd like to know more about what I've done to myself...

    I had to quit. I was starting to have heart palpitations.
  • Soda Pop? (Score:4, Funny)

    by albinobluerhino ( 935977 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:12PM (#48181959)
    Does this mean coke is ok?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:12PM (#48181963)

    When they get shorter you get irregular errors in DNA duplication, cancer, eventually death. Telomere shortening is a large % of what 'causes' 'aging' on a cell level.

    So it's not just obesity related health risks, this is a fucking big deal. I wonder when we'll find out if it's the carbonation or the sugar or something else unexpected.

    • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @06:16PM (#48182275)

      I highly doubt it's the carbonation. Carbonation is literally just CO2 compressed into the water. Your body not only already has a large quantity of CO2, but depends on it as part of your blood's buffering solution for maintaining a specific PH level. If there's too much CO2 in your blood, your kidneys will simply remove it without consequence.

      • As someone who has invested a fair amount of effort and money into making a machine to make his own carbonated water, because I LOVE it and drink a lot of it, I can firmly tell you any excess CO2 you might consume in beverages leaves the body one of two ways: you burp it or fart it.

        The kidneys are not involved in handling food CO2 because the process of digestion will free the gas and it will then vent directly in which ever way is easiest. Even if the gas stays in solution deep into the gun, it will not

        • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @10:37PM (#48183575)
          Consuming CO2 rapidly, as happens when drinking carbonated beverages, leads to stomach expansion. The stomach is capable of increasing in size to accommodate a large meal but if the practice is habitual the stomach will actually grow in size permanently. There is a nerve where the esophagus meets the stomach that triggers when the stomach is full. When triggered it tells the brain to stop eating (you are no longer hungry). Studies have linked an enlarged stomach to overeating and thus obesity. So while it may not have a direct link to obesity there is evidence it may be indirectly linked.
        • leaves the body one of two ways: you burp it or fart it.

          What happens with the energy in a system with the increase of pressure or heat, i.e. by pumping in gas?
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]

          Which, when released from a carbonated liquid, heats up and expands further, thus increasing the pressure, speeding up the reaction (digestion) AND expanding the walls of the organs - which absorb nutrients from the food.
          There's a reason why it takes longer for caffeine from coffee to "give you a kick" than it takes for caffeine in soda.

  • Sodium benzoate

    I think that this one ingredient, (which is also in many juices) would explain most of this. That is why they are starting to phase it out in many pop formulations.

    • Sodium benzoate

      I think that this one ingredient, (which is also in many juices) would explain most of this. That is why they are starting to phase it out in many pop formulations.

      Sure - is it that, or the HFCS, or the sugar generally, or the carbonic acid, or something in the caramel coloring? Study needs to be done with seltzer, diet cola, diet clear soda, regular cola, regular clear soda, etc.

      • Sure - is it that, or the HFCS, or the sugar generally, or the carbonic acid, or something in the caramel coloring?

        1) Caramel coloring is generally not required to be specially labelled (can be listed as "artificial coloring") because its literally caramelized carbohydrates.
        2) HFCS and sucrose are basically indistinguishable other than trace additives once your body metabolizes them; the sucrose becomes a mix of fructose and glucose.

      • I didn't see an actual link to the study anywhere, but TFA at least appears to assume correlation = causation. I am very skeptical.

        People who consume lots of soda are also (at least in my experience) prone to other bad dietary habits as well. So the causative factor could easily be something else.

        They said they compared against (but did not say they specifically corrected for) "age, race, income and education level", but there are a great many other factors that could be involved.

        For just one examp
    • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:23PM (#48182019)

      Sodium benzoate

      My money is on the sugar/syrup itself, acting through the insulin-like growth factor system. There is substantial evidence that decreased IGF activity lengthens lifespan and reduces cancer risk, while increased activity drives increased cell-division activity and apoptosis.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @06:24PM (#48182319)
        Carbonation is an acid. The effect on teeth is three-fold. The sugar is bad (Feeds the bacteria). The acid level rise damages teeth directly. The acid level rise is beneficial for the bacteria. The bacteria raise the acid level, and the acid ends up eating the enamel. So a sugary carbonated beverage is worse than a sugary drink with no carbonation, or a carbonated drink without sugar.

        There are many such interactions we don't count. We think of everything on a "yes" or "no" basis, when often it could be more complex than that.
      • by MtHuurne ( 602934 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @06:27PM (#48182339) Homepage

        Fruit juice contains a lot of sugars as well and consumption of fruit juice was associated with longer telomeres.

    • by Mr.CRC ( 2330444 )
      Why sodium bezoate? What is the basis for thinking that? Do you know of some toxic compound produced when benzoate is metabolized? Or any other toxicological connection between benzoate and cell or DNA harm?
    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      But they found no such correlation for juices or diet sodas.

  • What if it's not the soda but what people eat while drinking that soda? What if instead of the soda it's all that thai food hackers eat? Oh, and use of the word 'pop' only proves that they tested this in specific parts of the country.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:44PM (#48182099) Homepage

    The actual study [aphapublications.org] only applies to sugar-sweetened drinks.

  • From their recitation of methods: "Diet was assessed using 24-hour dietary recalls."

    So, in other words, they asked a bunch of people what they drank in the last 24 hours, measured their telomeres, and observed a correlation between those who remembered they consumed 20oz. of soda and white blood cells in an aged condition. Does anyone think it's possible that older people just consume more soda (as opposed to other drinks)? Does anyone think that older people just might be more likely to admit they'd consum

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @06:23PM (#48182307)

    My Great aunt, who donated her body to Science (Also in an Open Source way(1)) never drank any Cola, yet they were still way down [medicaldaily.com] when she died at the age of 115.

    A search on van andel telomeres [google.co.uk] will give more detail. I have the study somewhere around here, but am not able to find it just now.

    (1) Not only did she donated her body to science, she wanted the science to be used for people to learn AND have her name linked to it. To be honest, she thought she would end up on a shelf somewhere after they cut her up. She never thought it would result in so much results in research.

    Also because of her, they now have proof that alzheimers is not a given with old age thus a solution is at least possible. There were no traces of Alzheimers found anywhere.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @07:56PM (#48182751) Journal

    participants who drank pop daily had shorter telomeres

    I didn't know I had telomeres until about five minutes ago.

    And wait a minute, when they say, "pop", are they talking about any carbonated beverage? Is the problem the carbonation or the crap they put in pop to make it sweet and neon-colored and buzz-causing and impervious to going bad for 500 years?

    I need to know, because I've become enamored of my Sodastream machine, which turns water into fizzy water. I can't drink pop because I play the chromatic harmonica and any kind of drink with sugar or caramel color will foul up the reeds and valves. But fizzy water is perfect because it's refreshing, and it wets my whistle (which is important for playing the chromatic harmonica) and allows me to belch "When the Saints Go Marching In". Seriously, I love those carbonated belches. I keep them on the down-low when I'm around others, but I've scared the hell out of the cat a few times with a belch that registers 6.4 on the richter scale. It doesn't startle the dog, but she does wag her tail as if to say, "nice rip, bro".

    So, does this research mean that the fizzy water I drink (no added flavor, except occasionally I'll add a little spearmint or hibiscus tea) is going to give me stubby little telomeres? And does the length of my telomeres matter as long as they have sufficient girth? I need to know right away.

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