Drinking 100% Fruit Juice Linked to Weight Gain in Children

Though researchers only found a slight increase in body mass index among children who drank fruit juice, they suggest consuming whole fruit is a healthier alternative.

A systematic review and meta-analysis published on January 16 in JAMA Pediatrics examined 42 studies — 17 including children and 25 including adult participants — to determine if the consumption of 100% fruit juice impacted body weight.

The analysis showed that drinking one 8-ounce serving of 100% fruit juice per day was associated with a slight increase in weight gain in children, and each additional fruit juice serving was linked to a 0.03 increase in body mass index (BMI).

Moreover, children 8 years and younger had higher BMI gains than older children and teens. The researchers say that in children under 8, an 8-ounce serving of fruit juice would likely make up a more significant proportion of daily calorie intake than in older children, which would explain these findings.

Among adults ages 41 to 61, fruit juice was not initially found to promote weight gain. However, after analyzing studies that adjusted for calories, the scientists found that fruit juice consumption among people in this age range resulted in a 0.02 increase in BMI.

The analysis also found that specific types of juice may lead to more weight gain than others. Juices from "superfoods" like pomegranate, goji, barberry, bilberry, currant, and tart cherry juices were linked with weight loss, while apple, citrus, and grape juices were associated with weight gain.

Still, the weight change differences between juice types were not statistically significant.

Though 100% fruit juice is a healthier alternative to other beverages like soft drinks because it contains vitamins and minerals, it lacks the fiber found in whole fruit. Moreover, fruit juice has a higher glycemic index and contains more calories per serving than fruit. It can also contribute to the development of dental cavities.

Due to the study's findings, the scientists suggest that parents and caregivers should consider delaying the introduction of fruit juice into their children's diets. They also recommend offering smaller serving sizes and encouraging youngsters to eat whole fruit instead of drinking juice.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) fruit juice guidelines for children align with these suggestions. It recommends that parents should avoid giving fruit juice to babies under 12 months of age. Moreover, children ages 1 through 3 years old should consume no more than 4 ounces of fruit juice per day, and children 4 through 6 years of age should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces daily.

For children and teens ages 7 to 18 years, the AAP suggests limiting juice consumption to one 8-ounce serving per day.

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