The relationship between children’s juice intake and their growth has been debated for years. New research published in the January 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association supports what many nutrition experts say they have long suspected: Children and adolescents are drinking higher amounts of less nutritious fruit-flavored beverages and carbonated soft drinks than 100 percent juice.
Researchers from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences analyzed beverage consumption of more than 10,000 children from various age groups and found that, while most children are within guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics for juice intake, children’s consumption of carbonated beverages and fruit-flavored drinks surpasses their intake of 100 percent juice as early as age 5.
“Our research found that at around age 7, children’s consumption of 100 percent real juice flat-lines, while intake of fruit-flavored beverages increases. By the time children turn 13 years old, they are drinking nearly four times more carbonated soft drinks than 100 percent juice,” said lead researcher Gail Rampersaud, MS, RD. “It’s inaccurate to single out juice for this country’s beverage-related nutrition problems, when we see consumption of carbonated and fake fruit juice beverages continue to rise throughout adolescence.”
“Consuming 100 percent fruit juice has been positively associated with children achieving recommended nutrient intakes,” said Miami-based registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Sheah Rarback. “In fact, 100 percent juice supplies a variety of nutrients such as vitamins A and C, folate and magnesium.”
“Fruit-flavored drinks that are fortified with vitamin C are not as nutritious as 100 percent juice,” Rampersaud added. The researchers caution that these fruit-flavored drinks and “-ades” often contain 10 percent or less real fruit juice, have added sweeteners and may not supply the critical nutrients in amounts found in 100 percent juice.
Rarback suggests some steps parents can take to ensure their children are drinking fruit juices packed with nutrients:
• Read labels. Look for products that are labeled 100 percent juice. Although some beverages are fortified with vitamins or calcium, if it’s not real juice, it’s not as nutritious.
• Choose nutrient-rich juices. Not all juices are created equal, and some juices are more nutritious than others. Aim for juices naturally rich in nutrients, like 100 percent orange juice, which provides vitamin C, folate, potassium and thiamin at higher levels than other juices.
• Drink your way to five-a-day. Many children don’t eat the USDA-recommended servings of fruit each day, but real juice counts, too. In fact, one 8-ounce glass of orange juice equals more than one fruit serving for children.
The researchers suggest that health professionals should encourage parents and children to replace less nutritious beverages with those that are more nutrient-dense or represent more healthful choices such as milk, water or 100 percent fruit juice The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is the official research publication of the American Dietetic Association and is the premier peer-reviewed journal in the field of dietetics and nutrition.