by Dr. Elliot Hirshorn
You work hard all day long. Ten hours at the office. Cleaning the house. Chauffeuring the kids. Regardless of your daily activities, you put in the time and effort and feel like you deserve some quality rest and relaxation. You would also appreciate a little boost of energy now and then too, right? So, what do you do? You pop open a cool, crisp, refreshing bottle of soda. What’s your favorite flavor? Dr. Pepper? Mountain Dew? Pepsi? Root beer? Coca Cola? My weakness is vanilla cream soda. Oh man, I can taste it now as I type these words.
Sugary beverages, sodas being the most prevalent, are an easy way to refresh and refuel… or so we think. The caffeine and sugar gives us a boost to last… at least until we need another one. In reality, however, not only do these sugary beverages not fully and lastingly satisfy our thirst nor satiate our need for fuel, but they can have lasting negative effects on our overall health. So, they really are just a mirage. They seem like they are helpful in the moment, but you’ll always need just one more. And each successive sip further drives your metabolism and overall wellbeing into a tailspin. Enough rhetoric, let’s look at the research.
One of the most interesting studies to date investigating the long term health consequences of sugary beverages is one involving the telomeres of your DNA. Telomeres… ever heard of them? If you know about DNA, it has a double helix shape – it’s a long strand. At each end of the strand there is a buffer zone called a telomere. You can think of it like the plastic cap at the end of the shoelace. It protects it from coming unraveled. During the course of your life, due to the wear and tear of creating new cells, the telomeres begin to get shorter. Shorter telomeres are associated with aging, poor lifestyle and increased stress.
Get this… not only do sugary beverages give you excess calories and cause weight gain, but they also can lead to insulin resistance (precursor to diabetes), oxidative stress (damage to cells and DNA) and inflammation (a marker of almost all chronic health conditions). Insulin resistance, oxidative stress and inflammation are all correlated with shorter telomeres. Shorter telomeres can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the data…
- For every 20oz daily sugary beverage intake, you age by 4.6 years because of its impact on shortening your telomeres.
- Everyone knows smoking is bad for you, right? You say, “well, I don’t smoke, so I’m good.” Not so fast. Smoking reduces telomeres such that you age by 4.6 years too. That’s right… sugary beverages so impact your health that they age you as much as smoking cigarettes!
Is there hope? Absolutely, there’s hope! It’s fairly straightforward. Don’t smoke and don’t consume a bunch of sugar, especially liquid sugar (and yes, that’ includes sweet tea, my southern friends!).
While it’s clear that avoiding certain things can help prevent shortening of telomeres, you may be wondering if you can do anything to lengthen your telomeres? Why, yes, you can! Regular exercise has been shown to make your telomeres longer. Not only can you avoid premature aging by eliminating things that shorten your telomeres but you can also add to their length with daily exercise.
So get out there and get to it! But when you get back, lay off the soda, the sweet tea and the smokes!
If you have a chronic health condition like diabetes and would like more information about how we can help you, please call New Life Functional Neurology & Endocrinology at 864-757-8500 to see if you qualify for care and to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Elliot Hirshorn is a board-certified chiropractic neurologist and practitioner of functional medicine at New Life Functional Neurology & Endocrinology in Greenville, SC. The information contained herein is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or diagnosis and does not replace or constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Please seek out the advice of a qualified health care practitioner before making any health-related decisions.