If you drink regular soda, new science suggests that you may be drinking away your youth—and not even getting a good buzz from it.
In a new study, researchers assessed 5,309 adults' consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit juice, and diet soda over 24 hours. Then, they compared the adults' telomeres, chromosome components that naturally shorten as you get older and are used to estimate your biological age and risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
After adjusting the results for a variety of factors, researchers found that for every daily 8-ounce serving of regular (non-diet) soda consumed, people had shorter telomeres. To put a number on it: If you drink a standard serving size (i.e., 20 ounces) of regular soda per day, your biological age could be about 4.6 years older than that of non-soda drinkers. (To put this in perspective: Smoking shortens telomeres just as much.) Not to say that diet soda is healthy, but none of the other drinks in the study were significantly associated with shorter telomeres.
If you drink regular soda like it's your job, you don't have to start planning your funeral or anything. Just consider capping your soda intake and making some lifestyle changes: At least one small study suggests that healthy diet, exercise, stress management, and social support can increase your telomere length over time. (When your life is on the line, it's worth a shot.)
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.