Increased Cellular Aging by 3 Years of Age in Latino, Preschool Children Who Consume More Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: A Pilot Study

Child Obes. 2018 Apr;14(3):149-157. doi: 10.1089/chi.2017.0159. Epub 2017 Nov 17.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Beverages* / analysis
  • Carbonated Beverages / adverse effects
  • Cellular Senescence / drug effects*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Sugars / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Sugars / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leukocytes / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / pathology
  • Pediatric Obesity / physiopathology
  • San Francisco
  • Sex Factors
  • Telomere Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Telomere Shortening / drug effects*


  • Dietary Sugars