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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Why the squeeze on fruit juice?

A glass of fruit juice has long been thought of as a healthy daily habit. Recently, people have been confused about how much juice to drink, partly because of the natural sweet taste of fruit juice. Parents should be confident serving their children appropriate amounts of 100 percent fruit juice.

Drinking a glass of 100 percent fruit juice has long been thought of as a healthy daily habit for both adults and children—right up there with brushing your teeth and eating your vegetables. Recently, however, people have been confused about juice—how much to drink, how much to serve their children—partly because of the natural sweet taste of fruit juice. According to Theresa Nicklas, professor of pediatrics with Baylor College of Medicine, who has conducted research on juice consumption among children, parents should be confident serving their children appropriate amounts of 100 percent fruit juice.

Appropriate amounts would be in the range of 4-6 ounces of 100 percent juice daily for children 1-6 years old, and from 8-12 ounces daily for older children from ages 7-18. While an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on juice recommends limiting the amount of juice that children consume to these amounts, it also acknowledges that a serving of 100 percent fruit juice can play a role in the daily diets of children.

Here are a few other fruitful points about juice, from the Juice Products Association:

Aren’t whole fruits a better source of nutrients than juice?
Not necessarily. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that a majority of consumers’ daily fruit servings come from whole fruit, but adults and children are notorious under-consumers of fruit. A serving of fruit juice is a convenient way to help meet the recommended servings of fruit. Fruit juices also provide substantial contributions of several nutrients in higher amounts in the diet than do whole fruits, including vitamin C, folate and potassium. In addition, 100 percent fruit juice contains many naturally occurring phytonutrients that contribute to good health.

Doesn’t juice have a lot of sugar and calories?
No. Juice has a similar sugar profile to fruit. The way nutritionists look at foods and beverages is in terms of “nutrient density” – or the amount of vitamins and nutrients the food provides for its calories. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans acknowledge the role 100 percent fruit juice can play in the diet. The new USDA food pyramid includes guidelines for incorporating 100 percent juice as a fruit serving.

Doesn’t juice make children fat?
No. The majority of research conducted on 100 percent fruit juice consumption in children does not show a connection to weight. As a child nutrition researcher, Dr. Nicklas states that there are many factors associated with childhood obesity that are very poorly understood and more research is needed regarding diet and also lifestyle and activity levels.

Dr. Nicklas’ latest study, published in the October issue of Pediatrics, evaluated data collected over time on a national sample of preschool children. Her research determined that consumption of 100 percent juice was not associated with body mass index (an indicator of overweight) among preschoolers. The analysis done by Nicklas and her colleagues was based on the largest, ongoing government database on food consumption (NHANES - National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey).

The latest information about 100 percent fruit juice and how it fits into a healthy diet for children is available at http://www.fruitjuicefacts.org.

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