Even though previous studies on fruit juice and weight gain have
gotten mixed results, doctors often tell parents to avoid juices
with added sugars and other ingredients altogether and to limit 100
percent fruit juice to a single serving a day.
In the current study, one 6- to 8-ounce serving of 100 percent fruit
juice was associated with a small amount of weight gain in kids 1 to
6 years old, but the difference was too small to be clinically
meaningful because it didn’t shift most children from a healthy
weight to overweight. Fruit juice wasn’t linked to any weight gain
in children aged 7 to 18.
“This finding was a little bit surprising,” said lead study author
Dr. Brandon Auerbach, a researcher at the University of Washington
in Seattle. “Our team had thought that drinking one serving a day of
100 percent fruit juice would be linked to a small but clinically
important amount of weight gain.”
Parents shouldn’t take the results as a reason to let kids drink
more juice, however.
“Aside from weight gain, there are still other reasons to chose
whole fruit instead of 100 percent fruit juice whenever possible,”
Auerbach said. Too much juice can contribute to problems like poor
nutrition, obesity and tooth decay.
Pure fruit juice is also not the same as fruit drinks, which
typically have added sugars and can be just as harmful to kids as
drinking sodas, Auerbach added.
For the current analysis, researchers examined data from eight
previously published studies of juice and weight gain that included
a total of more than 34,000 kids. Six were conducted in the U.S.,
one in Germany and one in the UK. Studies followed children for
anywhere from one to a dozen years.
Three of the four studies looking at younger kids found a
statistically meaningful association between 100 percent fruit juice
and weight gain, researchers report in Pediatrics.
Researchers looked at participants’ body mass index (BMI), a measure
of weight relative to height, to assess trends in weight gain over
time based on how much juice kids drank across all of the studies.
Kids with a BMI anywhere above the 5th percentile and below the 95th
percentile in their age group are considered to have a healthy
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Among the younger kids in the analysis, one serving of fruit juice
was associated with a 4 percent increase in BMI percentile, too
little to push most kids from the healthy to overweight BMI
For the older kids, there was no difference in BMI percentile based
on how much fruit juice children consumed.
The study didn’t assess whether kids would be better off eating
whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice, and it also didn’t
examine what would happen if children consumed more than a single
daily serving of juice.
Even so, the findings should reassure parents that a small amount of
pure fruit juice is not likely to directly cause obesity in kids -
just as long as parents don’t confuse these beverages with fruit
drinks that, like sodas, often lack nutrients and are full of sugars
and empty calories, said Dr. Stephen Daniels of the University of
Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora who co-authored an editorial
accompanying the study.
Especially for children who don’t eat enough servings of fruit and
vegetables, 100 percent juice may be a way to sneak in some needed
nutrients, Daniels said by email.
“We should all be concerned that children and adolescents do not get
enough servings of fruits and vegetables,” Daniels added. “There are
numerous issues here, but one especially for families of lower
socioeconomic status is the availability and shelf life of fresh
fruits and vegetables, which means that other forms of fruit such as
100 percent fruit juice can be helpful.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against any juice for
infants under 6 months of age because it offers no nutritional
benefit. AAP recommends kids 1 to 6 years old drink no more than six
ounces of juice a day, and older children and teens have no more
than 12 ounces a day (http://bit.ly/1Uw2yyQ).
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