The ticking time bomb in every soft drink can

Put down that Coke and pick up a…Marlboro?

Soda would never be called a health drink.

But new research paints a much darker picture than we thought.

Because it looks like even one — that’s right, one single bottle a day, can have the same impact on your body as…smoking.

It has to do with how it affects the protective “caps” at the end of our chromosomes in all our cells — telomeres.

And it ain’t pretty…

We’ve all heard how sweetened sodas can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. And more recently, I told you about studies linking it to kidney damage and kidney disease.

But what this research uncovered is even more frightening.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, was the first time anyone looked at the effect soda might have on our telomeres.

Things that shorten telomeres are considered to be the big “killers” of modern life. Things like stress, lack of exercise, chemicals, and smoking.

Now you can add to that list Coke and Pepsi — and dozens of other sodas.

And don’t think that only matters if you always have a can in your hand.

Because it looks like where soda is concerned, there is no safe amount.

The study found that the more soda you drink, the shorter your telomeres. But it also found that as little as 8 ounces of soda a day (less than one can) can kick-start that accelerated aging.

And if you drink 20-ounces a day, the researchers found that the damage to your telomeres would be the same as in smokers.

Think about that: one 20-ounce soda a day can shorten your life as much as smoking!

One of the authors said that the cause may be that super-high dose of sweeteners that we put in our bodies “within seconds.” And that drinking soda is “uniquely toxic to metabolism.”

Of course we all know what almost all sodas are sweetened with — high fructose corn syrup. And there have certainly been enough studies showing how toxic that is.

And, of course, the answer isn’t to go the “diet soda” route. That’s uniquely toxic in its own special way.

I recently told you about a new study that tracked nearly 60,000 women, looking for big health risks in their habits.

And those who regularly drank as little as two diet drinks a day had a much higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who rarely or never did.

Still if you do have a soda habit — even a five-can-a-day one — it isn’t too late.

Experts say that this telomere damage can be reversed.

A study that looked at men who adopted better habits over a five-year period — things like more exercise, stress management and healthier eating — were able to actually lengthen their telomeres by 10 percent.

The men who didn’t make any of those changes lost 3 percent of their telomere length.

So the next time someone offers you a Coke, you can tell them, “No thanks, Coke really doesn’t ‘add life.'”

It’s actually just the opposite.

“Soda may age you as much as smoking, study says” Mandy Oaklander, October 17, 2014, Time,