One hundred percent fruit juice (FJ) remains a topic of debate among research and health professionals worldwide. Some research links FJ to increased obesity risk among children, while other research links FJ to increased nutrient adequacy. The purpose of this study was to summarize high quality studies investigating the potential harm and health benefits of FJ. Systematic reviews/meta-analyses (SRMA) and randomized control trials (RCT) between the January 2001 through April 2021 were searched for through PubMed using the key words of ‘fruit juice’, ‘orange juice’, ‘grapefruit juice’, ‘pomegranate juice’ or ‘apple juice’. Prospective observational studies were included when no SRMA or RCT were published on the reviewed topics. Potential benefits of FJ consumption were discussed first. Results showed that the high phytonutrient and micronutrient content of FJ could confer health benefits. Additional studies point to a higher bioavailability of these nutrients in FJ compared to whole fruit. Next, specific results on children were discussed (please see the original article for results regarding adults). A 12-week RCT of children who were drinking 240 mL of fortified FJ twice daily did not report an adverse effect on body weight. A SRMA including 8 prospective cohort studies and 34,000 children found that FJ was associated with weight gain among children 1-6 years-old but it was clinically insignificant and not associated with weight gain among those 7 to 18 years-old (FJ intakes varied between 224-504 mL/day for younger children and 109-190 mL/day for older children). Three additional prospective studies involving children found no association between FJ intake and excess weight/fat gain. Given the limited number of studies available on the effects of FJ intake among children, there is a need for additional high-quality studies in this area.
Study strengths: This paper included only high-quality studies including SRMA, RCT or prospective cohort studies. It also highlighted a need to differentiate between sugar-sweetened beverages and FJ among health professionals and consumers. FJ is rich in micronutrients and plant bioactive compounds that have been linked to numerous health benefits.
Study limitations: A SRMA was outside the scope of this paper but having a thorough analysis of qualified studies would strengthen the findings. It is also possible that the search strategy described above would miss individual studies since this was not a systematic review. Finally, this study did include observational studies which cannot determine the causal impacts of FJ on children’s weight.
What this means for your practice: This article highlights that 100% fruit juice can be a healthy choice in moderation for children. Rethink Your Drink classifies 100% fruit juice as a ‘SLOW’ drink, which is consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting 100% fruit juice to no more than 4-6 oz. per day for children 4- 6 years old. For children 7- 18 years-old, the recommendation is no more than 8 oz. per day. For more information about Whoa, Slow, and Go drinks, visit www.rethinkyourdrinknevada.com.
Original citation: Ruxton, C. H., & Myers, M. (2021). Fruit Juices: Are They Helpful or Harmful? An Evidence Review. Nutrients, 13(6), 1815.