Fruit juice targeted in the war on obesity

Today’s article in the Charlotte Observer speaks to exactly what we’ve been preaching at Charlotte Pediatric Dentistry for the last few years…the excess consumption of fruit juices is a real problem for kids today.  It is directly linked to childhood obesity, early onset diabetes and, of course, dental caries!  We love the article’s quotes…”Don’t drink an apple, eat an apple!” and “Juice is just like soda….”

We all know the bad effects of soda but since it’s “natural” many do not understand the consequences of juice consumption to our kids.

Here is the article:
Over the last decade, the nation’s war on obesity has targeted some fairly obvious culprits, including fast food, pastries, fried foods and soda.

But recent scientific studies and a new government-sponsored documentary that aired last week on HBO have identified a new, less obvious enemy: fruit juice.

This might surprise the many parents and school districts that in recent years have proudly ditched soda in favor of 100-percent juice. But health experts increasingly agree that it is not a better alternative.

“Juice is just like soda, and I’m saying it right here on camera,” pediatric obesity specialist Robert Lustig said in the documentary “Weight of the Nation,” produced in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There is no difference. When you take fruit and squeeze it, you throw the fiber in the garbage. That was the good part of the fruit. The juice is nature’s way of getting you to eat your fiber.”

Since 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised limiting daily juice consumption to 4 to 6 ounces for children 6 and younger and 8 to 12 ounces (the size of a soda can) for children 7 to 18.

The academy’s head of environmental health, Jerome Paulson, took it even further when he told the Tribune in December that children do not need to drink any juice at all.

“Don’t drink an apple,” he said. “Eat an apple.”

An important difference between fruit juice and fruit, researchers point out, is that calories and sugar delivered in liquid form don’t trigger feelings of fullness and can lead to excess consumption.

Beverage-makers dispute claims that fruit juice and obesity are linked. The Juice Products Association said it supports the pediatrics group’s recommendations on juice but added that “current scientific evidence does not support a relationship between being overweight and juice consumption.”

“Scientific evidence strongly maintains the nutritional benefits of 100-percent juice,” the association said. “In fact, studies show that drinking 100-percent fruit juice is associated with a more nutritious diet overall, including reduced intake of dietary fat, saturated fat and added sugars.”

As proof, the association cited a cross-sectional study – a snapshot in time – funded by the juice industry that found a correlation between consumption of 100-percent fruit juice and higher nutrient intake in children.

In response, UNC ChapelHill global nutrition professor Barry Popkin cited six other studies that show correlations between increased fruit juice consumption and increased risk of obesity and diabetes.

“There are no studies that show the opposite – that drinking a glass or two of fruit juice each day will have positive long-term health benefits on weight or diabetes,” added Popkin, author of “The World Is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products That Are Fattening the Human Race.”

In recent months, so-called “sugar sweetened beverages” (often sweetened not with sugar but with high-fructose corn syrup) have come under increasing attack for their contribution to the obesity epidemic. Whether this label should be applied to fruit juice is subject to debate, with some organizations counting only those juices with sugar added.

But even 100-percent juice beverages can contain as much sugar as soda. In addition, most commercial fruit juice is derived from concentrates, which often results in a higher sugar content than if the product were, say, simply squeezed from oranges.

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