Background: Previous studies in adults and older children find that sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption increases risk for obesity and cellular aging, as measured by leukocyte telomere length (LTL).
Methods: In a previously described, San Francisco-based Latino birth cohort, where telomere length was measured at birth, we evaluate the relationship between beverage consumption (including SSB and 100% fruit juice), obesity, and LTL at 2-3 years old, as well as change in LTL from birth. LTL (T/S Ratio) was measured in 61 children (mean 2.4 years ±0.6 standard deviation). Multivariable linear regression models are used to ascertain beverage type and obesity as independent predictors of LTL and change in LTL.
Results: Mean telomere length was 1.58 ± 0.20 (T/S Ratio) and mean yearly change was -0.08 ± -0.09 (T/S Ratio). Predictors of shorter telomere length at age 2-3 included increased consumption of SSB (Beta Coeff = -0.009 95% CI [-0.02 to -0.0008]; p = 0.03). Telomere length at birth was the strongest predictor of rate of attrition from birth to 2-3 years of age and males tended to have more rapid attrition.
Conclusion: Excessive SSB consumption impacts early childhood immune system health adversely, possibly before the development of obesity.
Keywords: SSB; obesity; soda; telomere.