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
The study was pretty substantial with ~5,300 participants with no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes. It's nice to have another datapoint against some of the bro-sciencey "Fruit juice has as much sugar as soda" arguments.
Here's a pretty good summary of telomere aging:
And besides, who says a "bro" can't science? ;)
Very fair point. I guess I've been exposed to too many paleo "all sugar is equally evil" bros lately. They can certainly science with the rest of them.
Hell, Kary Mullis won a Nobel for inventing PCR which he practically did from his surf board. Although his later absurdity^ re: AIDS / Astrology / Climate Change might give some more credence to keeping the bros out of science ;-)
^Absurdity not absurdism
Unless something in the remaining few percent is protective for honey and or harmful for HFCS, it's doubtful that there's a difference health-wise.
There does seem to be a difference between honey and refined sugar that is worth noting. This study compared rats eating lots of starch, glucose + fructose or honey:
This blogpost displays some of its data in nice, colorful bar charts:
* The study was done on rats
* They used fructose/glucose from a laboratory supplier, not HFCS from a supplier used by food manufacturers
* They fed the rats 100% starch/fructose+glucose/honey and vitamins (real people have varied diets)
The conclusions you should draw are that A) eating a diet of 100% HCFS is probably a bad thing (duh) and B) honey has antioxidants.
So if you replace your HFCS with honey, you don't need to get as many antioxidants from other sources.
Were they to control for antioxidant content, this study might be a bit more interesting.
This study doesn't seem to show that soda ages you (as the article states), but instead that sugary soda consumption indicates a tendency towards other activities/habits that may prematurely age you.
Health-related variables included smoking status (never, former, current), pack-years of smoking (0, < 30, 30---60, and > 60), physical activity assessed from questionnaire (some activity, no activity), total energy intake, alcohol intake, and Healthy Eating Index 2005 (HEI 2005) score, which is a dietary pattern de- veloped by the USDA to measure compliance with national dietary guidelines. The HEI 2005 is scored out of 100 points and comprises 12 components: total fruit, whole fruit, total vegetables, dark green and orange vegetables and legumes, total grains, whole grains, milk, meat and beans, oils, saturated fat, sodium, and calories from solid fats, alcoholic beverages, and added sugars. We collapsed HEI 2005 scores into gender-specific quartiles: for men, the cutpoints were 42.1, 45.9, and 50.5; for women, the cutpoints were 44.4, 48.6, and 53.5. We defined alcohol intake as low (0---0.5 drinks/day for men and women), moderate (0.5---2.0 drinks/day for men; 0.5--- 1.5 drinks/day for women), and heavy ( > 2 drinks/day for men, > 1.5 drinks/day for women).
Adiposity measures included body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. We calculated BMI from self-reported height (in meters) and weight (in kilograms squared), measured by trained personnel using a stadiometer and Toledo weight scale (Toledo Scale, Honolulu, HI). We defined BMI categories as underweight (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2), normal weight (BMI = 18.5---24.9 kg/m2), overweight (BMI = 25.0---29.9 kg/m2), and obese (BMI ‡ 30 kg/m2). Waist circumference (centimeters) was measured at the upper lateral border of the right ilium. We defined elevated waist circumference as 102 centimeters or greater for men and 88 centimeters or greater for women.
No offense, but the authors are very accomplished public health researchers. If their study showed what you suggest, I think that would be their headline. What they showed with (relative) certainty is that those who drink sugary carbonated drinks have shorter telomeres than those who don't. There will be follow-up work to determine the mechanism and the causes.
In either case;
> Epel is co-leading a new study in which participants will be tracked for weeks in real time to look for effects of sugar-sweetened soda consumption on aspects of cellular aging. Telomere shortening has previously been associated with oxidative damage to tissue, to inflammation, and to insulin resistance.
1) This is Time's popularization of their study, so Time is naturally going to put forward the most interesting and least nuanced claims of theirs.
2) They may be accomplished researchers, but if you are well-versed in an academic discipline and read material in it, it quickly becomes clear that sometimes points which seem obvious have not actually been accounted for whether by mistake or because they don't allow for interesting publishable material.
Again, I'm not saying that is the case, and my points above are overly cynical, but the original poster's question is valid.
The poster above could easily have satisfied his/her own curiosity on this point. 'Did researchers control for [extremely obvious thing]?' is becoming like 'correlation is not causation' - a smart-sounding thing to say instead of going to the effort of engaging with the material. It only took me 2 minutes to track down the paper and find that the covariate factors are discussed in detail over a full page of the paper.
2. Why so confrontational? If you know the answer to the question, why not summarize it? Is the answer to the question so complicated that it would take more time and energy than the two paragraphs you composed in derision?
> If you know the answer to the question, why not summarize it? Is the answer to the question so complicated that it would take more time and energy than the two paragraphs you composed in derision?
Every science article posted on HN gets the exact same treatment where well-intentioned but scientifically ignorant posters fill the comment section with drive-by posts saying "Correlation != Causation" or "Did they correct for [obvious variable]".
It's exhausting and completely unproductive.
If they would take 30 seconds and actually read the source information, they would answer their questions and the comment threads wouldn't devolve into this annoying meta conversation.
Take the post that prompted this whole thing;
> Did they describe how they controlled for behavioral habits? It seems like, as a group, the type of people who would drink large amounts of sugary soda would be less likely to make healthy behavioral choices in other aspects of their life, compared to people who drink fruit juice or diet soda. This could also explain the disparity between soda and non-carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages
> This study doesn't seem to show that soda ages you (as the article states), but instead that sugary soda consumption indicates a tendency towards other activities/habits that may prematurely age you.
So a poster, that later admits he didn't read the article, not only discounts the research that a half dozen PhDs in public health performed, but then provides his own summary of their research that is completely at odds with their results and experience.
How is this helpful?
If one were trying to troll a comment section to waste everyone's time, that's literally the best tactic since anything more obvious would be flagged or ignored.
And completely accurate. You know what's more exhausting than seeing someone point out that correlation!=causation? Being whiplashed by a dozen different studies, or correlation after correlation failing when subjected to a randomized test.
In this case, all you have to do is look at how they tried to defend against the universal healthy user bias (you know, the same thing that led to such epic fails as hormone therapy?), and see that all they did was adjust for weight and some self-reports. Bzzt. On top of that, note the anomalies:
> Only the sugary, bubbly stuff showed this effect. Epel didn’t see any association between telomere length and diet soda intake. “The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our body within seconds by drinking sugared beverages is uniquely toxic to metabolism,” she says. She also didn’t see a significant link between non-carbonated sugary beverages, like fruit juice, which Epel says surprised her.
You know what sugar-juice and diet soda have in common? People think they're healthier than regular soda.
They actually adjusted for age, smoking (never, former, current), pack-years of smoking, energy intake using the USDA's HEI, alcohol intake, physical activity (some/none), BMI, and waist circumference. They also didn't include anyone with prexisiting cardiovascular conditions or diabetes.
Their results confirmed earlier studies very strongly -- race, 'never' smokers, younger age, and healthy weight all corresponded to longer telomeres (P < .001), and their results showed significance with sugary sodas.
> You know what sugar-juice and diet soda have in common? People think they're healthier than regular soda.
I'm not sure what you're trying to imply with this one though. Just read page 5 of the actual study. This is good science and generic insults are just noise when everything is actually addressed:
Based on self-reports, though, yes?
All of which are self-reports (food and energy intake as a self-report, when it's well known in the field that self-reports are flattering? and you have the gall to imply that this is good reliable science) or based on weight, just as I said. Please think a little more about this.
> I'm not sure what you're trying to imply with this one though.
What...? OK, I'll charitably assume you're just ignorant here of problems with dietary research and explain (hopefully I won't be wasting my time and receive a response of 'I WANT TO BELIEVE'): whenever a large regression like this is run, there are always many correlations with various behaviors and food consumption; for example, people who eat nuts or blueberries or who exercise regularly or take statins are also people who tend to live longer on average or have other good outcomes. It is tempting to implicitly assume that eating blueberries is a random practice in the population and so this shows that blueberries probably cause you to live longer; however, it is also true that blueberries are widely believed by the general population to be healthy foods, and so the sort of people who pay for and eat blueberries (or claim to eat them, anyway) are also the sort of people who are in good health, are health-conscious, will follow their doctors' orders, comply with drug dosing regimens or regularly test their blood glucose, etc. This bias is universal, and this is why, for example, in the infamous Nurses's Study, hormones seemed so great when they turned out to be murderous in randomized practice: because hormones were believed to be healthy, it was healthy compliant nurses who self-selected into use of hormones and because they were healthy and complaint, had good outcomes anyway.
So, what is a warning sign of healthy user bias? It's when the common trait among harmful/beneficial correlates is whether they are generally believed to be harmful/beneficial even when the supposed causal chemical mechanism is inconsistent. In this case, soda is considered by the general population to be unhealthy, diet soda to be healthier (it's got diet in the name!), and fruit juice the healthiest of all. The former seems to be bad, and the latter two good or at least neutral. And why would soda be so harmful? Well, generally you'd suggest the acidicness or the sugar content; except... either of them should cause either diet soda or fruit juice to be harmful (acidicness or very high sugar content, respectively). But there is an explanation resolving the lack of harm for either: people with better health habits or interest will preferentially consume diet soda or fruit juice and avoid awful soda... and if we correlate consumption with outcomes, we'll find the soda drinkers have the worst outcomes. Voila: healthy user bias.
(You see something similar in studies of maternal smoking or smoking by pregnant women; the effect seems dramatic and harmful to the child, but consider this: given that everyone believes only the worst mothers in the world would smoke while pregnant, what sort of woman would over the past decades smoke while pregnant? Probably not one who plans ahead, is self-disciplined, health-conscious, rich, or intelligent, all of which are heritable, and are difficult if not impossible to completely measure in all their manifestations & remove as confounds.
If you wanted a more accurate analysis, taking this possibility into mind, you might do something like find women who smoked while having one child and didn't smoke while having a second child, and compare pairs of children; then you'll find that the harmful effects mostly disappear.)
This cannot be adjusted away simply by a few self-reports because it is a systematic subtle effect on all life outcomes - for example, to name just 2 of the lurking confounds, in other studies one can find longevity boosts to IQ and Conscientiousness for what is suggested to be the same exact reason (more likely to understand or carry out good health practices, respectively), but neither of those was measured by this study.
> This is good science and generic insults are just noise when everything is actually addressed: http://www.chc.ucsf.edu/ame_lab/pdfs/Leung%20et%20al%202014a....
Healthy user biases are never 'actually addressed' by a study of this type, that's the point.
However I would not expect it to then give a clear linear link between specific consumption and telomere length as shown in this study, as the confounding factors are unlikely to be directly linked to exactly how much you consume:
"we found that each daily 8-ounce serving of
sugar-sweetened sodas was linearly associated
with shorter telomeres, roughly equivalent
to 1.9 additional years of aging, independent
of sociodemographic characteristics and
No, that's also consistent with healthy user bias: drinking soda and healthy attitudes/habits are not binary variables, they both seem like they would be relatively continuous (you can drink 1 can of soda a day, or 2, or 3, or 4, or 5, or anywhere in between for that matter; and you can be very concerned and conscientious about your life, or concerned, or somewhat concerned, or a little concerned), and so you would expect dose-response relationships. There's no less reason to expect linearity from soda/health than soda/telomeres.
(If it was as easy as all that to refute healthy user bias and other confounds, they wouldn't be such a big deal...)
Welcome to the internet!
Your confidence, to the contrary, may be borne of ignorance.
Asking 'did the researchers consider X' without bothering to even look at the paper is just posturing. It's on the same level as saying 'this looks shopped - I can tell by some of the pixels and from having seen quite a few shop jobs in my time.' It may be an attempt to signal hard-headedness and intellectual rigor, but absent any specific target for the criticism, it's worthless.
Ugh. Another blanket statement that in no way reflects the actual paper in question.
From your own source he recommends larger studies, cross-team work clear pre-trial hypotheses, and study-registration.
This n=5,300 study was performed by researchers at UCSF, Stanford, Berkeley, and Michigan, they published their intention to run the study prior to running it with a hypothesis that was partially proved wrong (they expected shortened telomeres with noncarbonated SSBs as well as with sugary soda).
What exactly is your issue with this study? Or do you just reject science in general.
I don't think that's the case at all. It isn't a black and white issue, and I certainly don't feel it has been conclusively shown that if I start drinking drinks that are BOTH fizzy and sugary tomorrow, it will result in my telomeres shortening at an unusually high rate as the article claims. Is that really anti science? I don't think so.
And lay folk do find errors in papers all the time, it varies a lot on the paper and the field how difficult that is though. Some papers, the vast majority of scientists would not be able to spot errors, it really depends on how specialist the required knowledge is and there really are no hard and fast rules there.
So given a study that turned out to be false, in general it isn't possible to argue either way as to whether a layman would spot errors, you would have to argue it on a case by case basis.
The one thing we do know is you definitely cannot spot errors without at least reading the thing and going through the working.
2. Yes, the answer to the question is complicated. As I mentioned, it occupies a full page of the study. I could have summarized this in a few words, but the authors had already done that in the abstract and the poster didn't consider that good enough.
Potential confounders included sociodemographics (participant’s age, gender, self-reported race/ethnicity (white, black, Hispanic, other), highest educational attainment, ratio of family income to poverty, and marital status.
Health-related variables included smoking status, pack-years of smoking, physical activity assessed from questionnaire (some activity, no activity), total energy intake, alcohol intake, and Healthy Eating Index 2005.
In related news, green jelly beans cause acne: https://xkcd.com/882/
They ran two different models and found across all cohorts (correcting for age, race, BMI, marital status, smoking, history, physical activity levels, and education) that those who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened soda had statistically shorter telomeres -- and that this affect is correlated with the amount of consumption.
> Because of the model-based estimate in this sample of the age-associated rate of telomere shortening of 13.6 base pairs per year, this was equivalent to 1.9 additional years of aging for an 8-ounce serving of sugar-sweetened sodas. For a daily consumption of the current standard 20-ounce serving size for sugar-sweetened sodas, this corresponds to 4.6 additional years of aging.
This is good science, and treating it as less than that to set up a joke is pointless.
Something tells me green-account "Scientist007", that you might not actually be a scientist.
What compounds in soda are most likely causing this? If they're not seeing the results in fruit juice, its not sugar causing the damage.
There's a joke in here about muddy waters [a cocktail made variously with coke and OJ] somewhere ...
If you head to YouTube and look for Dr Robert Lustig, a researcher at UCSF, there's a 1 or 2 hour lecutre he has delivered on this topic which goes into great detail ont eh different metabolic pathways different kinds of sugar take within the body.
Anyhow, to the above comment:
Nutritional studies are worse than physiological studies. It's impossible to control for everything and just gets picked up but one side of the crazies or the other and like they will here just lead to a bunch of speculative anecdotal arguments.
From : " "A reduction in salt intake led to a significant fall in blood pressure, even in the healthy volunteers," explains Jens Titze, from Erlangen-Nuremberg University." ..
"Titze gradually reduced the daily salt intake of the 'cosmonauts' during the course of the world's longest metabolism study, while keeping all other nutrients unchanged."
But well, it's not something every study can do.
From what I found, HFCS 55 which is used in soda is 55% fructose and 42% glucose. I haven't found the percentage of fructose and glucose in juices but apparently in a navel orange, there's an average of 8.5 of total sugars comprised of 2.25g fructose, 2.0g fructose and 4.3g of sucrose.
It seems that the ratio is the same as HFCS 55 for navel oranges but the difference is the presence of sucrose which seems not to be present in Soda. I'll have to read more to see if sucrose is more important...
I thought sodium was coming back into style in the latest nutrition fads.
One quote from Wikipedia on the issue
"The total state of oxidative and peroxidative stress on the healthy body, with the AGE-related damage to it, is proportional to the dietary intake of exogenous (preformed) AGEs and the consumption of sugars with a propensity towards glycation such as fructose and galactose."
Go careful, that's not all broscience. Children especially should not have undiluted fruit juices.
Why? (with links if you can - thanks)
Tooth removal is an avoidable problem, but a significant cause of hospitalised children in England.
> Almost 26,000 primary school children were treated for tooth decay in the past year, making it the most common reason youngsters are admitted to hospital, research shows.
> Nearly 500 children aged five to nine were hospitalised due to rotten teeth each week in 2013-14.
There was another recent story showing cultures that had no access to sugar and had a negligible amount of tooth decay; but I can't find the link just now.
> Small amounts of pure, unsweetened fruit juice should be diluted half and half (50% juice to 50% water), or with a greater proportion of water to juice if your child is thirsty.
> Juice should be restricted to mealtimes only in a free-flow cup, not a feeding bottle.
The poster holds a view which is so weird it may as well be shilling. (And I say this as someone who has said that Lustig advocates go too far).
I honestly can't tell if you're being sarcastic or serious.
Childhood obesity is a serious issue. Heck, even type-2 childhood diabetes is a growing concern.
Do you have any support at all to justify this claim?
No significant associations were observed between
consumption of diet sodas or noncarbonated SSBs and
I'm actually having a hard time coming up with non-carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages as I don't drink any, but I'm picturing stuff like Honest Tea or those Starbucks Frappuccino things.
Bottled "tea" seems the right kind of thing.
Common in the UK are sweetened fruit juice drinks. Obvious examples are Sunny D and J2O, but there are also plenty of drinks sold in very similar packaging to pure fruit juices, which are actually diluted and sweetened (with sugar). They have to say "juice drink" on the label.
(I'm not a huge fan of carbonation, except, oddly, for pineapple-flavored drinks. But mostly I just don't get why you'd want to take a perfectly good drink and add pain to it.)
Little if any nutrition research is actually run like a traditional science experiment (i.e. do something specific and observe results). Unfortunately outside of the prison camps on North Korea it is impossible to control the diet (or behaviors) of enough people for long enough to get useful results.
Instead we observe people uncontrolled behavior (almost never directly but through questionnaires) then observe health outcomes (usually not directly) or in this case something (telomere length) believed to be associated with health outcomes. Attempts are then made to adjust for all these potential problems using additional data (usually questionnaires) - usually difficult to say how effective.
These neccesary compromises introduces a whole host of potential problems that have contributed to all the confusion over what is good/bad nutrition. I've given up on having much confidence in medical research until it is repeatedly confirmed in additional studies - which may never happen.
Years ago, I was in Austria a lot, where it was a perfectly normal thing to order "Apfelsaft mit Leitungswasser" (apple juice with tap water). Which you'd get for the regular price of an apple juice, in a twice as big glass, that they'd top off with tap water.
 also, grapefruit.
I was under the impression that this expression was used more with regard to dental health
It seems there is a missing item somewhere.