If you’ve ever read any of our columns, you know we feel quite strongly about sugar. To clarify, that means strongly against it. Sugar not only ages your immune system, arterial systems and joints, but it also contributes to collagen breakdown and wrinkle formation. Oh, and a little something called weight gain.

And now, we’ve got another reason to recommend (no, beg) that you cut back on your sugar intake — specifically, in liquid form. An October 2014 study from UC San Francisco found that drinking sugary soda can actually age your body faster on a cellular level. In fact, its effects are comparable to those of smoking.

How is that even possible, you ask? Let us explain. Telomeres, which are the key reproductive ends of each of your chromosomes that allow your precious DNA to be replicated so you can keep being renewed, were found to be shorter in the white blood cells of study participants who reported drinking more soda. Shorter telomere length has been associated with chronic diseases that come about as your cells age and are compromised, such as heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. Telomere length is even related to skin aging.

Now, here’s the craziest part. The researchers calculated that the telomere-shortening effect of consuming a 20-ounce soft drink daily is comparable to the effect smoking has on the cells.We already know sugar-laden soda is not a healthy choice. Even drinking diet soda comes with risks of weight gain, diabetes and an increased chance of cardiovascular problems (plus, a very recent study connected no-calorie sweeteners to metabolic issues). But if those facts aren’t enough to get you ditching your cola for a healthier option, maybe seeing how microscopically a seven-day feast with a 32-ouncer a day can do damage similar to a pack of Marlboros will motivate you to make healthier choices.

If your health and beauty are important to you (which we surely hope they are), you have a pretty good idea of what to stay away from. Cigarettes. Trans fats. UV radiation. All these big no-nos hurt your body, mess with you inside and out, and accelerate aging. It’s time to add soda to that list. We promise you’ll be happy you did.

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