SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) -- A new study looked at whether America's thirst for soda speeds up how the body's cells age.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco used a sample of 5,300 healthy adults. Dr. Elissa Epel worked on the study for 5 years.
"We think we can get away with drinking lots of soda as long as we are not gaining weight, but this suggests that there is an invisible pathway that leads to accelerated aging, regardless of weight," said Dr. Epel.
Epel's team discovered that in people who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages, the ends of their chromosomes, known as telomeres, were shorter.
The shorter the telomere, the less a cell can regenerate thus aging the body, and raising the risk of disease and early death.
"This finding is alarming because it suggest that soda may be aging us, in ways we are not even aware of," said Dr. Epel.
Researchers found no link in cell aging, however, when drinking diet sodas and fruit juices.
Concerned about possible health effects, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lost a high-profile court battle to ban large sodas there.
"I've got to defend my children and you and everybody else," said Bloomberg.
He's now supporting a measure on the November ballot in Berkeley that would add a 1-cent per ounce tax on soda distributors.
Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently tax sodas sold in vending machines.
Still, helped by ad campaigns from various groups, soda companies are on a 4-year winning streak. Thirty bills to levy or raise taxes on sugary drinks have all failed.
The American Beverage Association declined an interview about the study, but insist the researchers did not find a "conclusive" link between soda and cell aging.
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