Objectives: We tested whether leukocyte telomere length maintenance, which underlies healthy cellular aging, provides a link between sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption and the risk of cardiometabolic disease.
Methods: We examined cross-sectional associations between the consumption of SSBs, diet soda, and fruit juice and telomere length in a nationally representative sample of healthy adults. The study population included 5309 US adults, aged 20 to 65 years, with no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease, from the 1999 to 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Leukocyte telomere length was assayed from DNA specimens. Diet was assessed using 24-hour dietary recalls. Associations were examined using multivariate linear regression for the outcome of log-transformed telomere length.
Results: 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.
Conclusions: Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence metabolic disease development through accelerated cell aging.