Juice Not Linked to Kids’ Weight Gain
July 10, 2008—Good news for your little juice lovers: Although several studies have suggested that drinking fruit juice might contribute to overweight in children, a review of 21 studies found that the link was not strong. “There is no systematic association between consumption of 100% fruit juice and overweight in children and adolescents,” said the study’s authors in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
The origins of overweight
While genetics play a role, diet and exercise patterns are also intimately involved in maintaining healthy weight. In a previous study, one researcher found that children who drank more than 12 ounces of fruit juice per day were more likely to be overweight than children who drank less juice. Since juice is the drink of choice for many youngsters, the new study compiled evidence from studies concerning juice consumption and overweight in children to try to answer the question: Does drinking juice make kids fatter?
Only 6 of the 21 studies reviewed found a relationship between drinking 100% fruit juice and overweight in children, none of which were based on a nationally representative sample. Those that found a relationship did so only in adolescent girls and children who were overweight to begin with. The other 15 studies—5 of which were based on nationally representative samples—found no relationship between drinking juice and becoming overweight.
The authors concluded, “The data do support consumption of 100% fruit juice in moderate amounts and suggest that consumption of fruit juice may be an important strategy to help children meet the current recommendations for fruit.”
“As the mother of one child who wants nothing to do with juice, and another who would drink it all day long, it is a relief to read this new study. I feel like it’s one less thing for me to stress about as a mom,” said Erin Goodman, founder of the Rhode Island Birth Network.
The importance of addressing obesity
According to the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 17% of all children and adolescents are overweight. Among 2 to 5 year olds, the prevalence increased from 7 to 14% between 1988 and 2004; similar increases were seen among 6- to 19-year-olds in this time span, with an increase in the percentage of overweight children from 11 to 19%.
Says Dr. Matthew Baral, medical director of Hamilton Elementary School Clinic in Phoenix, “Eating the whole fruit is preferable to the juice, since the release of sugar in the bloodstream is somewhat blunted by the fiber in whole fruit. When consuming juice, dilute it with water to lessen the amount of sugar the child is getting.”
Help your child maintain a healthy weight
Here are some simple things that parents can do to help keep kids’ weight in a healthy range:
• Snack on fruits and veggies—Make a big fruit salad on the weekend; store in the fridge and eat all week. Keep ready-to-eat cut-up vegetables on hand for quick snacks. Baby carrots, snap peas, broccoli, and cauliflower are easy to eat on the go.
• Get moving in your free time—Set a positive example by making exercise a priority for the whole family.
• Limit TV time—Kids who watch more TV or eat while watching TV are more likely to become overweight.
• Avoid processed foods—Packaged snacks can contain hidden fats and sugar. Opt for home-baked goods to satisfy the urge to snack.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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