Fruit Juice: Fattening or Not?

By Jim F

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Nutrition advice can be frustrating. It’s often confusing and sometimes flat out contradictory. Fruit juice consumption is a perfect example.

New research concludes that consumption of fruit juice in children has no association whatsoever with risk of being overweight.

Hang on. Other Australian research concluded the complete opposite.

So which is it?The more recent research raises a few red flags.

  1. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Juice Products Association (via WebMD)
  2. The data used was from the NHANES dataset from 1999-2002 and came from parents writing down what their child ate in the previous 24 hours.
  3. The research only ever mentions “100% fruit juice”. How many parents out there could – off the top of their head – recite which specific brands of juices are 100%? This means all juices that were not 100% were specifically ruled out from the research.

May I suggest this: The parent who is fully aware that they are providing their child 100% pure juice (rather than the multitude of sugar-added products) is also the parent providing a healthy diet on the whole.

100% or not… dilution is recommended – or even better – eat the fruit before it goes through the juicer.

37 Comments

  1. joanne

    i love green apple a lot but i dont really sure is that make me fat or not?

    Reply
  2. News Guy

    “i always thought juice was healthy and i mean the juice where u get oranges and juice them in a juicer,but lately i read in a magazine that, that is un healthy is that true?”

    Yeah im the same way

    Reply
  3. Jorge Faris

    I have been getting the same mixed message of different studies contradicting each other whether drinking fruit juices actually contributes to the obesity among our children.

    Reply
  4. kathy

    Anything of too much is bad so having a lot of fruit juice can be bad for weight loss.

    Reply
  5. angel

    i always thought juice was healthy and i mean the juice where u get oranges and juice them in a juicer,but lately i read in a magazine that, that is un healthy is that true?

    Reply
  6. Andy

    I really like to drink fruit juice instead of cold drink.

    Reply
  7. Felicia

    Gal Josefsberg said:
    Just eat the fruit. It’s usually more portable, less likely to spoil and healthier. Making it into a juice is like working extra hard to get rid of some of the benefits of the fruit.[…]

    Sometimes juicing helps to encourage one to eat that vege/fruit.. For instance, my mum juices bitter gourd together with green apple. I doubt many would eat bitter gourd plainly/raw. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  8. Christine

    I always equate juice with empty calories. My kids only get juice (real juice, not Sunny D or Juicy Juice) in their school lunches, otherwise it’s milk or water. I’d much rather they eat the apple or the orange than just drink the juice. Myself, I can only handle orange juice when it’s cut with vodka or champagne. ;o)

    Reply
  9. phattie

    This is mental.. fruit juice (100% not the ‘fruit flavoured’ shit) isnt going to make you obese, its sugars are more complex than the HFCS variety found in processed drinks, wont jack up you blood sugar levels, contains nutrients, and wont stick to and rot your teeth like pop (soda).

    I’ve been drinking a 1/2 litre of OJ every morning for the past 4+ years.. no obesity problem for me.

    There are bigger dietary issues than fruit juice (100%).

    Reply
  10. kelbell

    i’d rather eat my calories than drink them.

    Reply
  11. no one

    Try again.

    http://web.mit.edu/athletics/sportsmedicine/wcrservings.html

    http://www.supersizedkids.com/resources/quiz/part1.asp

    http://dese.mo.gov/divadm/food/TFBMP.pdf

    It obviously doesn’t have the fiber, etc. of, say, an apple or orange, but in terms of the nutrition information, yes, juice CAN BE a serving of fruit or veggies.

    Mousefinger said:
    Juice is not an equivalent. Sorry.[…]

    Reply
  12. Mousefinger

    no one said:
    Actually,they do.

    No, that’s not true. Juice lacks much of the solids that make up a serving of vegetables and fruit. Juice lacks much of the solid make up of the skin of the the fruit or vegetable.

    Juice is not an equivalent. Sorry.

    Reply
  13. no one

    Actually,they do. Not that everyone should be drinking juice all day, but giving your kid a glass of V8 if they refuse to eat tomatoes does equal a vegetable serving. Same with OJ, apple juice, etc.

    Mousefinger said:
    Just remember: if you’re giving your children fruit and vegetable juices, “Fruit and vegetable juices DO NOT count as a serving of fruit & vegetables”[…]

    Reply
  14. Mousefinger

    Just remember: if you’re giving your children fruit and vegetable juices, “Fruit and vegetable juices DO NOT count as a serving of fruit & vegetables”

    ยป http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18057874/

    “One or two daily servings of juice can certainly have a place as part of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. But don โ€™t be misled: juice is not an equal substitute for solid fruits and vegetables. Research supports juice as nutritious, but juice cannot provide the full benefits that come from eating solid vegetables and fruit.”

    Reply
  15. Spectra

    I used to drink large 20 oz bottles of juice for breakfast almost every day (along with a couple of pop tarts) and I was always starving by 10:00 in the morning, despite having consumed about 700 calories’ worth of food. Once I replaced the juice with a piece of fruit, a small bowl of cereal, and either milk or yogurt, I cut the total calorie count of my breakfast down to 300 or so and I was full til lunch. I rarely drink juice any more because it doesn’t fill me up and most of it has little or no fiber.

    Reply
  16. Doug Burns

    A lot of people automatically think that because juice is made from fruit, that it must be healthy. While it certainly provides nutrition, juice is loaded with sugars.

    For example, 10 oz. of orange juice contains about 30g of sugar. Meanwhile, 10 oz. of Coca-Cola has only slightly more sugar. Sure, the juice offers nutrients, but it’s better to get those from the fruit itself. When you eat the fruit, you get all the nutrients, less of the sugar, plus the fiber… which helps the body regulate blood sugar anyway.

    I agree though: just plain water can get pretty boring. Diluting is a good method, but if you’re trying to cut added sugars, it might even be better to add a splash of juice, rather than go 50/50. Also try sparkling waters with fruit essence. They taste great and have no calories or sugars.

    Doug Burns, SugarFitness.com

    Reply
  17. Quito

    Again, I can only speak from my own experience, but serving sizes are, for the most part, larger here than what I’ve seen in Italy… This might be a fun thing to research.

    Reply
  18. Erica

    What a “serving size” is on a label versus what a “serving size” really is is very very different as we see very much in American culture where a serving of say meat is 4 oz…. but most people think 4 oz looks like a a half of a pound… a huge descrepency in what in the diffence between the actually serving and what is consumed.

    Reply
  19. Quito

    Erica wrote:

    n most European countries a serving of fruit juice at breakfast is a grand total of “2-4” ounces that is slowly sipped through out the meal… we are the only. Its also freshed squeezed with so sugar added. I think its again a portion control issue.

    It was the same in the US until, I think, the 1970s when frozen juice concentrate became inexpensive enough. As I recall, it took quite some time for the small, fresh OJ to all but disappear.

    I know Italy a lot better than other European countries; there, it seems to be less an issue of portion control and more a bias towards quality over quantity.

    Reply
  20. The Faddist

    That second paragraph should have been quoted to Erica as well.

    Reply
  21. The Faddist

    Erica said:
    In most European countries a serving of fruit juice at breakfast is a grand total of “2-4” ounces that is slowly sipped through out the meal… we are the only. Its also freshed squeezed with so sugar added. I think its again a portion control issue.

    In South American Countries, they drink OJ diluted considerably with water… about a 1:1 ratio. Again- no sugar added. I think its only Americans that demand their giant 8-12 oz glasses of PURE strong fruit juice.

    Erica, I don’t know where you get your information, but it’s just not factually correct. A serving size of juice in Europe is generally 250 ml which equals… 8oz, the same as here. Most countries in the world consume fresh squeezed orange juice without cutting it with more water. Except, of course, for very poor ones.

    Did any of you actually read either study before you came here to declare how awful fruit juice is? The second one found no correlation between juice and weight. And the first one only found a correlation when you add soda to the equation. And they had to be drinking AT LEAST 3/4 of a liter of juice a day.

    Now do you think that maybe, just maybe, a kid who is drinking that much juice a day is also consuming a lot of other food as well? Do you think maybe it’s their overall food consumption that is making them fat instead of the fact that they drank juice?

    Critical thinking is a good tool at all times, and especially when dieting. Then you don’t need to flip out about every study that comes out.

    Reply
  22. weight loss

    Anything of too much is bad so having a lot of fruit juice can be bad for weight loss.

    Reply
  23. Jim

    Quito said:
    but why would a dinky poster at a huge conference get so much exposure?[…]

    Precisely. Sometimes very small amounts of research hit the headlines on all the mainstream newswires. Sometimes even resulting in a 20 second newsbite on a TV news show.

    Those 20 seconds have more impact on how people choose their food than any amount of well-meaning blogs or even other large studies.

    Why does such a small story that goes against most other research – get such coverage?

    Reply
  24. Erica

    In most European countries a serving of fruit juice at breakfast is a grand total of “2-4” ounces that is slowly sipped through out the meal… we are the only. Its also freshed squeezed with so sugar added. I think its again a portion control issue.

    In South American Countries, they drink OJ diluted considerably with water… about a 1:1 ratio. Again- no sugar added. I think its only Americans that demand their giant 8-12 oz glasses of PURE strong fruit juice.

    Reply
  25. Owen

    I used to drink SO much juice. Then I started reading labels. Had the shock of my life at how much sugar I was drinking! I’ve cut it out totally now and stick to water.

    Reply
  26. Kirk VandenBerghe

    And remember that “100% fruit juice” may not include added sugars, but it may have ingredients added to the list, like preservatives and stabilizers. If you believe in “energy” (chi, qi, ki, prana, etc.), the older a juice is and the more it’s been messed with (concentrated, reconstituted, frozen, unfrozen), the less “life force” it contains. I like the knudsenjuices.com “Just Juice” line, which I sometimes put in my SuperFood smoothies (50/50 with filtered water). That said, better to juice your own fresh, and best to…just eat the whole fruit!

    Reply
  27. Gal Josefsberg

    I like your last point. Why bother with juice at all? Just eat the fruit. It’s usually more portable, less likely to spoil and healthier. Making it into a juice is like working extra hard to get rid of some of the benefits of the fruit.

    GJ
    http://www.60in3.com

    Reply
  28. Ryan

    Oh, I should also add that, instead of fruit, you should eat the more nutrient dense vegetables, like green leafy ones.

    Reply
  29. Ryan

    I actually avoid both fruit and fruit juice most of the time. All of our fruit is too sugary and not nutritious enough these days, thanks to the near-ideal conditions we grow them in. There are a few exceptions I make, particularly tomatoes. Also, when I’m bulking, I put bananas in my protein mixtures to make the stuff more palatable.

    Reply
  30. staci

    most “convenient” juices have 140 cals per 8oz- that’s a lot for a “healthy” drink, don’t you think? not to mention the amount of sugar in there. you know it isn’t all from fruit- far as i know, i’ll choose eating grapes over sucking through a straw anyday! they’re even better frozen than making “juice cubes” in the ice tray.

    Reply
  31. Quito

    Last comment: Dr. Niklas is indeed a fine and upright researcher. Her home page is here and her CV is here. She gets funding from all over.

    Reply
  32. Quito

    Oh… this says that there was no paper – it’s from a poster at a conference – the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting.

    Some of you may not understand the significance: in most academic fields, journals contain the results of the most rigorously-reviewed research. A conference is where preliminary results are presented – the work in a conference is not as thorougly reviewed. Most papers in conferences are presented in some session. A poster at a conference is the least rigorously reviewed work – a person stands by a poster board with a description of the work, and interested people can walk by and see what’s up. If you’ve got the time, here is the conference home page. I couldn’t find the poster track (but I have to get to work). It’s a gigantic conference. There was one paper related to Jim’s questions – the title is “A Fresh Look at Tracking Childhood Obesity”.

    Anyway, based on my limited knowledge, I believe that this story is a complete set-up by the Juice Products Association, who funded the research. I’m not dissing Dr. Niklas – I’d guess she’s a fine and upright researcher – but why would a dinky poster at a huge conference get so much exposure?

    Here’s an abstract from a recent journal article that takes the opposite position of Dr. Niklas:

    Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. 10(3):355-359, May 2007.
    Baker, Susan S
    Abstract:
    Purpose of review: The high-nutrient needs of children for normal growth and development are matched by ready access to low-nutrient high-energy foods. Parents are often confused by new and at times conflicting information. This review discusses three recently published papers that offer specific and important dietary information for school-aged children.

    Recent findings: Lactose intolerance is common in some populations and there are misconceptions about dairy intake. Most lactose-intolerant children can consume some dairy products without symptoms. Fruit-juice intake can predict increased weight gain in children, especially those who are already overweight or at risk for being overweight. Hypertension is a serious disease with onset likely in childhood. This paper discusses the importance of dietary sodium as a contributor to the development of hypertension, and the sodium content of children’s diets.

    Summary: Advice to parents on feeding children should be based on the food pyramid and include information on exercise. Recent publications suggest that children consume dairy products, even if lactose intolerant, restrict juice intake, remove sweetened beverages from their diets and reduce sodium consumption.

    I think that Jim should label this thread under “the naked power of money”.

    Reply
  33. TheMorbidMe

    Make your own juice at home, then you know exactly what you are getting.

    Reply
  34. Jan

    I drink juice, but always as a snack, never as a replacement for water. When I’m running errands, I’ll often get a large orange-papaya juice (freshly squeezed) as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.

    Reply
  35. Quito

    Wow! I was trying to find the actual study by googling “Theresa Nicklas children juice” and instead got lost in dozens of copies of this story, from medical news wires to local TV stations. This story has legs. Is it being pushed or pulled? In any case, can you post a link to the actual study?

    This is a more detailed news release. Many of the news releases contain this quote:

    One startling finding, said Dr. Nicklas: More than half of the children studied (57%) drank no juice at all.

    Why is this startling? Do parents not give their children fruit? (It’s an honest question – I don’t have children and so don’t know).

    From the same news release I gave above:

    The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued in 2005 by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture noted that while whole fruit provides fiber, “the fruit juices most commonly consumed by older children and adults provide more vitamin C, folate, and potassium in portions usually consumed than do the commonly eaten fruits.”

    The guidelines recommended that at least one fruit serving in a daily diet come from 100% juice, noted Dr. Nicklas, a member of the guidelines advisory committee.

    What the $&*%&$?? We’re supposed to prefer juice over whole fruit? Did some senator from Florida, California or Washington force this through??

    Reply
  36. tjasa

    What an EXCELLENT POINT you have here!

    Reply
  37. Lose Weight With Me

    If I drink juice, I always dilute it down, 1/2 water, 1/2 juice. Otherwise, it’s too much sugar.

    And I do prefer the whole fruit as opposed to the juice.

    Brian

    Reply