What you need to know:
- People are now starting to realise that fruit juice isn’t quite as wholesome as they once believed. And that’s why a primary school in London recently banned it
- The reason juice is so bad is all because of the fructose that it contains.
I RECENTLY FOUND out that my two-year-old daughter is given juice at school every day, as part of the lunch she has there. She’s been eating lunch at school for the last four months, but juice had not been included on the menu we got. To say I was livid is an understatement.
Agreed, juice isn’t a fizzy drink, but it does contain just as much sugar. Yes, that’s right, even freshly squeezed juice contains just as much sugar as a soda. As various studies have shown, including one published in the British Medical Journal last year, fruit juice is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
People are now starting to realise that fruit juice isn’t quite as wholesome as they once believed. And that’s why a primary school in London recently banned it (I will be lobbying for the same at my daughter’s school).
The reason juice is so bad is all because of the fructose that it contains. Fructose is the main sugar found in fruit, and therefore, generally has a “healthy” reputation (compared to other forms of sugar like say, sucrose).
However, juicing makes the sugar in the fruit more accessible to the body, and since a 250ml glass of orange juice contains about three times as much fructose as a whole orange, it’s not just the vitamins and antioxidants you’re getting in your glass.
Not only does fructose reduce the effectiveness of insulin (thus having the potential to induce diabetes), it also raises levels of blood fats called triglycerides.
Triglycerides are believed to be an important risk factor for heart disease. Furthermore, animal research has found that fructose feeding can raise blood pressure.
Exposing your body to fructose also lowers leptin, a hormone that has appetite-suppressing effects and is believed to play an important part in the regulation of food intake. That’s why feeding animals with fructose has been found to cause them to eat more and gain weight – hardly what you’d expect from drinking something that’s supposedly healthy.
Of course, I don’t think that fruit juices are in the same nutritional league as soft drinks (juice does at least contain some good stuff), but the fact that they’re so sugary means that they can cause problems. For example, the sugary, acidic nature of juice makes too much of it a no-no for healthy teeth.
SHORTER AND FATTER
A recent study also found that children who drank more than 360ml of fruit juice every day were likely to be shorter and fatter. And as I’ve seen at my clinic, some children simply can’t handle all this sugar at a go - it starts to ferment in the gut, leading to bloating and wind, and in rare cases, diarrhoea. In my daughter’s case, it explains why she’s had a runny nose that no amount of healthy food at home has been able to shake.
That’s why I recommend that all children should consume juice with caution (Two glasses a week at most). One way to wean them off sweet juices is to dilute the juice with as much water as possible: start with one-third water to two-thirds juice and come down from that. They’re also less likely to scream if you switch to water later (the ideal scenario).
And for adults, get out of the habit of downing one glass of fruit juice after another, telling yourself it is healthy. Eat a piece of fruit instead.
The writer is a clinical nutritionist and certified by the Nutritional Therapy Council in the UK. Please direct any questions about family nutrition to her on [email protected]