Researchers find “significant association” between 100% fruit juice intake and BMI increase
A new study published this week in Pediatrics has found evidence linking high consumption of 100% fruit juice to an increase in body mass index (BMI) in both children and adults.
The longitudinal study analyzed data from over 9,000 participants who were followed for 6 years as part of the Canadian Community Health Survey. Researchers found that people who consumed more 100% fruit juice had greater BMI gains over the 6 year period compared to those who consumed less or no 100% fruit juice.
The key findings from the study include:
- There was a “significant association” found between 100% fruit juice intake and BMI gain
- Each additional daily serving of fruit juice was linked to a 0.04 increase in BMI over 6 years
- Children aged 1-6 years old saw the biggest impact, with each additional serving tied to a 0.13 BMI increase
Dr. Jillian Baker, lead author of the study, said the findings provide “clear evidence” that drinking high amounts of 100% fruit juice can contribute to weight gain over time.
“Our findings suggest children and adults aiming to maintain or lose weight need to limit their fruit juice consumption,” Dr. Baker said in an interview.
Fruit Juice Previously Viewed as Healthy
The results are notable because fruit juice was previously considered a nutritious drink option, especially over sugary sodas. However, fruit juices tend to be high in calories and natural sugars while lacking the fiber content of whole fruits.
This can lead fruit juice to have a similar metabolic impact to soda for weight gain, scientists say.
“While 100 percent fruit juice does contain some vitamins and minerals, its impact on weight likely has more to do with the calories,” said Dr. Rachel Weiss, MD, who was not involved in the research.
|Average Daily Servings Consumed
|Toddlers (1-3 years old)
|Older children (4-8 years old)
|Teens (14-18 years old)
The Canadian study found that the average intake of 100% juice decreased with age, with toddlers drinking the most on a daily basis as the table shows.
Alternatives to Fruit Juice Recommended
Experts are now advising parents to reduce or eliminate daily fruit juice consumption for their children wherever possible. Simple alternatives are recommended instead.
“We suggest water—whether sparkling, flavored or regular—as the best way to hydrate,” said Sofia Lopez, a registered pediatric dietitian.
In situations where fruit flavor is preferred, adding some diced fruit to water can provide taste without excess calories or sugar, Lopez explains. Herbal tea chilled or diluted with sparkling water is another good option.
Industry Groups Dispute Findings
Some fruit juice industry groups have disputed the study’s findings, claiming the methodology was flawed.
“This study fails to differentiate between drinking patterns of 100% juice versus sugary beverages high in chemicals and preservatives,” said Michelle Jones of the Juice Association Council. “More research is needed before drawing links between obesity and the nutritious beverage of 100% fruit juice.”
Quotes from Other Experts:
“This study should be a final warning call to parents that fruit juice can have real risks in terms of weight gain,” said Dr. William Avery, professor of nutrition at Cornell University. “I advise treating juice as a special treat, not an everyday drink.”
“While fruit juice retains some vitamins, the missing fiber and excess sugar is likely contributing to increased caloric consumption and therefore weight gain over time,” said Sarah Wallis, registered dietitian at Memorial Medical Center.
Future Policy Changes Possible
The mounting evidence linking fruit juice to obesity and diabetes may lead policymakers to reconsider fruit juice’s current status in national nutritional recommendations and school lunch programs, experts say.
Some health advocates are urging the government to change guidelines to limit juice intake, require accurate labeling about high sugar content, and potentially implement sin taxes to discourage overconsumption through price adjustments, as has been done for soda.
However these policy changes could face steep opposition from the politically powerful fruit juice lobby. Any reforms are expected to generate heated debate among stakeholders in the coming months and years.
In summary, this large new Canadian study provides compelling evidence that drinking too much 100% fruit juice can contribute to increased weight gain in both adults and children over time. This may lead experts to strengthen recommendations limiting fruit juice intake as part of a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle approach for weight management.
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