Study suggests limiting fruit juice for kids

A glass of fruit juice a day is associated with weight gain in children, according to a review of the evidence by Canadian researchers.

A paper published in JAMA Pediatrics shows the results of a meta-analyses of 42 studies into the effect of 100% fruit juice consumption on body mass index (BMI); 17 involving children and 25 adults.

Fruit juice consumption had a higher effect on BMI in younger children (below the age of 11 years old) than older children. In adults no significant association between juice consumption and BMI was identified.

The findings suggest fruit juice consumption should be limited in children to prevent excess calories and weight gain. 

The authors suggest fruit juice likely contributes to weight gain due to high amounts of free sugars and energy, compared to eating whole fruit. 

They write: “a potential mechanism linking 100% fruit juice to weight gain is the consumption of liquid calories, which has been shown to result in greater weight gain compared with the ingestion of solid calories. Compared with whole fruit, 100% fruit juice contains less dietary fibre, leading to the rapid absorption of fructose in the liver.” 

Studies analysed were drawn from North America (14), Europe (12), Asia (6), South America (2), Australia (1) and New Zealand (1).

Australian dietary guidelines say while Australians don’t eat enough fruit, many of us drink far too much fruit juice. 

“Fruit juice should only be drunk occasionally as it is acidic and can increase the risk of dental erosion.  Fruit juice also has less fibre and other healthy nutrients than the whole fruit provides,” government website Eat for Health says.

The issue of basing individual health considerations on Body Mass Index is controversial. In the recent Cosmos podcast series “Debunks: Weight” our reporters looked at how BMI  came to be a well regarded model for health practitioners, and why that is now being reconsidered. 

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