Sugar Shortens Your Life

SugarIf you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you will know I am President of the ‘I Hate Sugar Club‘ but, given we’re in the midst of the silly season of socialising, I thought this article on the hazards of sugar was timely.

What am I talking about?

Well, the American Journal of Public Health recently published an article (16-10-14) that revealed an association between drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks and the presence of shorter telomeres.

Now, don’t worry if you’re thinking ‘telo-what?!’ – allow me to explain.

Telomeres are caps at the ends of chromosomes that naturally shorten with each cell cycle. Increased telomere shortening has been associated with oxidative damage, inflammation and chronic diseases, including diabetes.

Basically the shorter the telomeres, the shorter the life of the cell… and ultimately you.

This study included 5,309 men and women between 20-65 years of age enrolled in the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the researchers:

  • Analysed the participants 24-hour dietary questionnaire responses for sugar-sweetened soft drink, diet soft drink, noncarbonated sugar-sweetened beverage and fruit juice intake
  • Measured white blood cell telomere length (at UCSF lab of study coauthor and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD)

Researchers found that increased sugar-sweetened soft drink intake was associated with a reduction in telomere length.


“It is critical to understand both dietary factors that may shorten telomeres, as well as dietary factors that may lengthen telomeres,” noted lead author Cindy Leung, of the UCSF Center for Health and Community. “Here it appeared that the only beverage consumption that had a measurable negative association with telomere length was consumption of sugared soft drink.”

So it appears that it is the sugar in the soft drinks that is the problem, given the diet versions would have contained the same food colourings and flavourings. I’m not saying that colourings and flavourings are harmless, and we also know that artificial sweeteners are harmful in other ways – but this is yet another demonstration of how destructive sugar is to our system.

Senior author Elissa Epel, PhD, suggested that “Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks might influence disease development, not only by straining the body’s metabolic control of sugars, but also through accelerated cellular ageing of tissues.”

“This is the first demonstration that soft drink is associated with telomere shortness,” she announced. “This finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level. Telomere shortening starts long before disease onset. Further, although we only studied adults here, it is possible that soft drink consumption is associated with telomere shortening in children, as well.”

So, this silly season may I suggest steering clear of sugar-laden soft drinks as a beverage or mixer, and consider some of these options instead:

  1. sparkling water
  2. sparkling water with wedges of lemon, lime, red grapefruit or ginger
  3. sparkling water with a splash of cherry, blueberry or raspberry juice
  4. kombucha (although make sure it’s thoroughly fermented to remove residual sugars)
  5. water kefir (like with kombucha, make sure it’s thoroughly fermented to remove residual sugars)

What are your favourite cold healthy beverages/mixers?

[Source: LEF. Tuesday, November 4, 2014. ]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *