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Your Afternoon Soda Could Be Making You Age Faster
A soda a day could be making your skin look older, new research finds.
By Christina Heiser
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If the threat of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity wasn’t enough to make you put down your afternoon cola, this might: A new study published in the reports that drinking one sugary soda a day may speed up the rate at which your body ages.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, looked at a sample of 5,300 healthy adults aged 20-65 and found that those who drank an 8-ounce serving of soda a day over the course of three years experienced an additional 1.9 years of aging. Drinking a daily 20-ounce serving of soda in that same time period, meanwhile, was linked to a whopping 4.6 more years of aging — similar to the amount of added aging associated with smoking.
The researchers who worked on the study found that the soda drinkers had shorter telomeres — the protective ends of DNA that are found in every cell in the body — than those who don’t drink soda daily.
“A good analogy would be the plastic ends of a shoe lace — they keep the shoe lace tethered together,” says Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD, an Everyday Health columnist and an assistant professor of dermatology at Montefiore Medical Center – Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “That’s kind of what a telomere is — it’s at the edge of DNA, helping to protect and repair it.” Over time, telomeres get shorter and shorter until they ultimately fall apart, signaling the cell to die, Dr. Friedman explains.
However, it’s still just speculation as to whether the sugar in soda is what actually causes extra aging. “There could be something else in soda that [caused] an accelerated shortening of the telomeres,” notes Friedman.
How Sugar Ages You
“This concept of sugar and aging, it’s not really new news, because we’ve heard so much about sugar over the years — how it can hurt your heart, how it can hurt your brain, how it can suppress your immune system,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RDN, CDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It and the writer behind the Everyday Health Column, Nutrition Intuition. “And if you have these medical issues, they all chip away at you and therefore cause you to age more quickly.”
And all that agingcanleave its mark on your skin.
“What happens over time, after telomeres shorten [is that] the ability to repair and maintain DNA decreases, so cells don’t function properly,” says Friedman. “So with shortened telomeres, you’ll get signs of aging,” including wrinkles. The upper layer of your skin, known as the epidermis, also won’t be able to function correctly and may not be able to turn over and shed off appropriately, leading to dull skin. Sugar also increases inflammation, which can lead to acne or a psoriasis flare-up, he says.
When it comes to soda, whether it contains sugar or an artificial sweetener, its dehydrating effect — caused by caffeine, which is a diuretic — can mess with your skin’s ability to bounce back. If you’re hydrated properly, you should be able to pinch your skin and have it snap back immediately.
RELATED: 6 Stealth Skin Agers
5 Ways to Slow Down the Aging Process
There are easy ways to lower your sugar intake — and prevent major signs of skin aging caused by sugar. Here’s what you can do:
- Add fresh fruit to water.“Not only will you get more water, which will be naturally flavored with delicious fruit, you’ll also be getting the benefits of more fiber and a whole host of minerals if you eat the fruit,” Taub-Dix says.
- Mix up a better-for-you drink.If you can’t quit soda completely, Taub-Dix suggests mixing a splash of 100 percent fruit juice with a glass of club soda. You can also try mixing half a can or cup of soda with club soda. “You’ll still get the bubbles,” she says.
- Read labels carefully.Sugar can be called by a lot of different names, so look out for words like corn sweeteners, dehydrated cane juice, maple syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. “Anything that ends in ‘ose’ should be a red flag that it’s sugar,” Taub-Dix says.
- Get up and move.“While smoking or drinking soda can shorten telomeres, you can actually protect them,” says Friedman. “Exercise has been shown to maintain the lengths of telomeres.”
- Wear sunscreen every day.“I don’t care if it’s raining out — you should still be using a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 because UV radiation is still coming through even when it’s not sunny,” says Friedman.
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