The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages like carbonated drinks and sodas has previously been linked to an increased risk of obesity and type II diabetes. Now a new study in one of The Lancet journals, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, suggests that fruit juice is as bad as sugary drinks because of a comparably high sugar content.
Prof. Naveed Sattar and Dr. Jason Gill, both of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow, warn that fruit juices and smoothies “are as bad for health as fizzy drinks” and recommend that the UK government make changes to the current “five a day” guideline to exclude a portion of fruit juice from the list of fruits and vegetable servings.
Despite popular opinion that fruit juice is a healthier alternative to sugar drinks like soda, fruit juice actually contains amounts of sugar similar to other sugar-sweetened beverages. Explains Prof. Sattar, “Fruit juice has a similar energy density and sugar content to other sugary drinks, for example: 250 ml of apple juice typically contains 110 kcal and 26 g of sugar; and 250 ml of cola typically contains 105 kcal and 26.5 g of sugar.”
Fruit juice has received more scrutiny from researchers in recent years because of a link between high sugar intake and the risk for heart disease. Dr. Gill explains that a clear misperception exists that “fruit juices and smoothies are low-sugar alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages.”
While recent studies indicate that eating fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of health problems, the same is not true of fruit juice.
Continues Prof. Sattar, “Additionally, by contrast with the evidence for solid fruit intake, for which high consumption is generally associated with reduced or neutral risk of diabetes, current evidence suggests high fruit juice intake is associated with increased risk of diabetes.”
Compared to whole pieces of fruit, fruit juice contains more sugar and less fiber. Furthermore, although juice contains vitamins and minerals lacking in most other sugary drinks, “the levels of nutrients in fruit juices many not be enough to offset the unhealthy effect that excessive consumption has on metabolism.”
States Dr. Gill, “Thus, contrary to the general perception of the public, and of many healthcare professionals, that drinking fruit juice is a positive health behaviour, their consumption might not be substantially different in health terms than drinking other sugary drinks.”
In addition to urging the government to exclude juice from current dietary guidelines, Prof. Sattar and Dr, Gill also want food companies to improve container labeling to indicate that consumers should drink no more 150 milliliters of juice per day.
Concludes Professor Sattar: “We have known for years about the dangers of excess saturated fat intake, an observation which led the food industry to replace unhealthy fats with presumed ‘healthier’ sugars in many food products. Helping individuals cut not only their excessive fat intake, but also refined sugar intake, could have major health benefits including lessening obesity and heart attacks. Ultimately, there needs to be a refocus to develop foods which not only limit saturated fat intake but simultaneously limit refined sugar content.”
The message is clear: Choosing whole fruits is a better alternative to both fruit juices and other sugar-sweetened beverages such as sugar.
Fruit juice ‘as bad’ as sugary drinks, say researchers: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/272438.php
Fruit juice: just another sugary drink?: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(14)70013-0/fulltext
Fruit juice – just another sugary drink?: http://www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_306830_en.html
Assorted Fruit Juices: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1443113