The “health halo” effect can certainly make foods seem healthier than they are. Fruit? Healthy. Fruit juice? Must be, too. But if the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to make one thing clear, it’s that “healthy” doesn’t apply to fruit juice for children under age 1, according to its latest recommendation.
That’s because fruit juice doesn’t provide these young children with any nutritional benefit, and it could be contributing to rising child obesity rates and dental health concerns. This recommendation marks the first time the AAP has updated its stance since 2001.
Overall, fresh fruit is preferred to fruit juice because it contains dietary fiber and less sugar than juice. But 100-percent fresh or reconstituted fruit juice, if enjoyed with an otherwise healthy diet, is acceptable for children over age 1, the AAP notes.
Toddlers between ages 1 and 3 should only have 4 ounces of juice daily, according to a news release regarding the policy statement. This increases to 4 to 6 ounces per day for children ages 4 to 6, and 8 ounces (aka 1 cup) for kids ages 7 to 18. Those amounts can supply kids with half or less than half of their suggested daily fruit serving, which is 2 to 2 ½ cups.
The pediatricians’ group also suggests not allowing toddlers to drink juice from “sippy cups,” because they allow teeth to be exposed to juice sugars over longer periods (think: juice sitting on teeth), which could contribute to tooth decay.
“The problem is, parents will stick a bottle or sippy cup in the kid’s mouth and kind of leave it there all day,” Dr. Steven A. Abrams, of the University of Texas and the statement’s co-author, told CNN. “That’s not good from the calorie-intake perspective, and it’s sure not good for the teeth. What happens is, the kid then gets used to all the sugar, and then they won’t drink water.”
Sharon Zarabi, a New York-based nutritionist not involved with the recommendations, told CNN that in her work with obese adults, habits from people’s childhood age with them, juice-drinking included.
“When you isolate fruit into a liquid form, you’re mostly getting sugar water, and it’s easy to consume excess calories in liquid form, and those calories can add up, and they’re void of any protein or fiber, which is usually what helps keep people satiated,” Zarabi said.
The AAP also recommends banning unpasteurized juice consumption completely and cautions against mixing grapefruit juice with certain medications. It encourages pediatricians nationwide to step up their education and advocacy efforts on the juice front as well.
“Pediatricians should support policies that seek to reduce the consumption of fruit juice and promote the consumption of whole fruit by toddlers and young children (eg, child care/preschools) already exposed to juices, including through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC),” according to the statement.
By David Oliver, Associate Editor, US News & world Report