Want To Stay Healthier Longer? Put Away The Soda

Megan Ray  |  November 13, 2014

We've all been warned of the things to avoid if we want to age healthily and live a longer life. Cigarettes, alcohol and too much sun have all been demonstrated to have adverse effects on skin, heart and brain health, as well as general wellness. But recent studies have revealed that there's an additional substance that may be just as harmful - soda. The bubbly beverage is a favorite among kids and adults alike, but there's evidence to suggest it may be doing more harm than good.

Are soft drinks the new supervillains?
Very few people have any compunctions about whether soda is a healthy drink - at best soft drinks are loaded with artificial chemical sweeteners like aspartame and at worst they contain alarming amounts of sugar and calories. Not to mention, the carbon dioxide that gives soda its characteristic fizz is terrible for teeth. But questionable nutritional value aside, many may not realize just how bad sipping on a soft drink can be for your health.

According to Time magazine, a recent study has found that drinking soda can literally subtract years from your life - or at least, from the life of your immune cells. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, inspected the relationship between sugary soda and commonly associated health issues such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Researchers examined soda drinkers on the genetic level and found that those who had a soda habit had shorter telomeres - the little genetic caps on the end of our chromosomes - which is commonly associated with more health problems. As our chromosomes comprise our genetic makeup - including the cells we need to function healthily - shorter or more vulnerable genetic material can have strong negative impact on well-being. In the case of this study, researchers found that drinking just 8 ounces of soda a day was correlated with the equivalent of nearly two years of additional aging. Those who prefer larger 20-ounce servings on a daily basis experienced effects equivalent to 4.6 years of aging on their cells.

Interesting to note was that the negative effect on genes was only observed in participants who drank carbonated, sugary soda - diet-soda drinkers and those who enjoy non-carbonated sugary drinks like fruit juices weren't reported to have exhibited the same effects.

Giving soda the boot
It may seem simple to suggest cutting out soda cold-turkey, but for many, the classic beverage is an iconic mainstay of hot summer days, family functions and picnics. The good news for soda drinkers is that there are many alternatives to these dangerous soft drinks that can provide just as refreshing a sip without all the associated health risks. According to The Huffington Post, iced tea is a great substitute for soda, as it provides a cool, refreshing drink without the harmful sugar. Those who prefer a bit of sweetness in their sip can add a bit of honey or lemon. Such a tactic lets individuals control how much sugar they're ingesting, rather than downing a soda that has tablespoons of the stuff already mixed in. As an added bonus, the source pointed out that iced tea provides polyphenols - antioxidants that can contribute to better health and even help stave off some cancers.

Of course, for those who need the fizzy goodness, there are other options. HuffPo suggested substituting your soda with homemade fruit-infused seltzer. This natural take on soda offers the same fizzy effervescence, and the fruit provides a natural source of sweetness that won't knock years off your life. And you can make this drink with whatever kinds of delicious fruit you want!