Fruit Juices Are Sugary Drinks

People may be surprised to hear that 100% fruit juice is another type of sugary drink with the same potential harmful effects as soft drinks.

We know that juice drinks contain a lot of sugar and our tendency was to instead recommend only 100% fruit juice for infants and young children. However a study published in the journal Pediatric Obesity in 2015, concluded that the regular consumption of 100% fruit juice at 2 years of age was associated with a higher risk of becoming overweight by 4 years of age as compared to those who infrequently drink or do not drink 100% fruit juice. This is very relevant as we also now recognize that overweight children tend to become overweight adults.  So the old assumption that 100% fruit juice is better than soft drinks is now in question.  

Intuitively, we may think that 100% fruit juice is healthy and just as good as eating the solid fruit when it comes to counting the daily servings of fruits/vegetables.  However eating the solid fruit is actually better than drinking fruit juice. Here are some other relevant facts:

  • Fruit juice contains less fiber than the solid fruit so children may not feel as satisfied after drinking juice and still be hungry.
  • In fruit juice, sugar is the only source of calories which may still leave a child hungry as compared to ingesting foods with protein and fat.
  • Obesity risks may be higher when drinking fruit juice with snacks; after drinking juice children may still be hungry and tend to eat more snacks increasing their overcall calorie intake.
  • Fruit juice typically does not include the skin that contains anti-oxidants thought to lower the risk of cancer.

A Practical Approach

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting fruit juice consumption to 4-6 ounces (120-180ml) per day for children 1-6 years of age. Some experts feel that there should be clearer recommendations that suggest solid fruit is better than fruit juice. I want to stress that not offering a baby fruit juice is not harmful, yet too much may be, in the long run. From a practical point of view, parents and child caretakers should track and limit fruit juice consumption and as much as possible, offer water and solid fruits instead. Starting this practice early in life can assure that this becomes a life-long healthy habit.