In recent years, vending machines, tax efforts and product packaging and marketing have been among approaches considered for addressing a growing nutrition challenge: sugar-sweetened beverages. The nation’s obesity prevalence alongside other health concerns like diabetes highlight some of the negative health impacts of sugary drinks including sodas, juices and energy drinks.

This month, the American Journal of Public Health’s latest release of research reveals new findings about sugary drinks, from the effects sodas might impart on your cellular makeup to teens’ decision-making habits in choosing which beverage to drink.

Sodas accelerate cellular aging

According to one study, drinking sodas could result in additional cellular aging, similar to that of smoking cigarettes. The study investigated leukocyte telomere length in which shorter telomeres have been associated with risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. While telomeres shorten naturally with age, the study found that consuming a 20-ounce serving of sugar sweetened soda daily, a typical serving size today, could result in shorter telomeres equivalent to 4.6 years of cellular aging, a similar effect of smoking. More than 20 percent of the study’s participants consumed this much soda daily.

“We already know too well that soda consumption contributes to obesity. This study reveals a new link, suggesting soda may also lead to shortened immune cell telomere length, independent of levels of obesity,” Cindy Leung, ScD, lead author of the study explained.

And while one study focused on the impacts of sugar sweetened beverages as you age, another looked at youth and their consumption of sodas.

Exercise labels reduce consumption

The study revealed that black teens’ beverage decisions were impacted by easy-to-understand signs indicating the drink’s calorie information. The study placed the signs in Baltimore corner stores in predominantly low-income and black neighborhoods. Information on the signs included the number of teaspoons of sugar included in each beverage and, deemed most effective, the amount of exercise it would take to burn off the beverage’s calories. Results indicated a reduction in the likelihood of purchasing a sugar-sweetened beverage from 98 percent before the signs were placed to 89 percent after they were displayed.

“This study reinforces that when provided with understandable calorie information, black teenagers will make healthier beverage choices,” Sara Bleich, PhD, lead author of the study said.

The study also found a decrease in the total number of calories purchased before and after the signs were placed along with a decrease in the likelihood of purchasing a beverage larger than 16 ounces.

To view abstracts, download articles and learn more about the latest research from the American Journal of Public Health, visit www.AJPH.org.