Subjects: Public health
The jig is up when it comes to juice. Public health officials long-ago identified sugary sodas as a causative factor behind the nation’s obesity epidemic, but fruit juice actually packs more calories per ounce than the vilified beverages themselves.
“It’s pretty much the same as sugar water,” said Charles Billington, an appetite researcher at the University of Minnesota. In the modern diet, “there’s no need for juice.”
A cup of fruit juice contains the sugar in 4-6 pieces of fresh fruit. A cup of OJ packs 112 calories, and the same amount of grape juice contains 152. A cup of Pepsi contains 100 calories.
Worse yet, the predominant sugar in these beverages is fructose—the sweetest of all simple carbohydrates. When fructose is consumed in frequent large boluses, it predisposes people to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease since under these circumstances, the liver converts fructose to fat.
In contrast, the fructose in whole fruit enters the body more slowly and in far lower amounts. This allows the liver to dispose of fructose in other, healthier ways.
Beyond this, calories consumed in liquid form don’t have high satiety value. People normally offset a healthy afternoon snack by eating less for dinner, but that doesn’t happen if the snack is juice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics was the first policy-making group to change its recommendations based on these realities. In 2001, it began recommending that kids between the ages of 1 and 6 years consume no more than one 4- to 6-ounce serving per day of juice.
The 2005 Federal government’s dietary guidelines suggest that fruit juice is a good source of potassium, but recommend that whole fruit be used to meet most recommended daily fruit servings.
Still, juice’s healthful aura is tough to penetrate. Frank Greer, who served on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition committee, said he “can’t imagine” the group would ever downgrade juice to the status of soda.
“It’s such a normal part of the American diet,” Greer told the LA Times. “A glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast, my goodness!”