Many of the commercially available juices and fruit drinks targeting children contain as much a day’s worth of sugar in a single can or bottle, shows a new report.
The study conducted in the UK calculated the levels of ‘free’ sugars in 200-milliliter sizes of 203 fruit drinks, 100 percent natural juices and smoothies marketed specifically to children. Nearly half of the tested products had at least a child's entire daily recommended maximum sugar intake of 19 grams (five teaspoons) of sugar, the study revealed.
The report notes that fruit drinks with excessively high sugar content are often marketed as healthful products, which confuses many parents and children. In recent years, with more information about the high sugar content of sodas and other sweetened drinks, many parents are opting for the seemingly healthier fruit juice and smoothie alternatives.
The study points to the need to make a distinction between ‘free’ sugars and ‘naturally occurring’ sugars. Free sugars include those added to products, such as glucose, fructose, sucrose and table sugar, as well as naturally occurring sugars in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. Naturally occurring sugars are those present in whole fruits and vegetables.
Dieticians and doctors recommend that where possible, parents should give children fresh fruit instead of fruit juice. If the only option is fruit juice, then they suggest choosing unsweetened juice, or diluting the juice with water and limiting the quantity to around 150ml a day.
Dietary guidelines recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of children's total calories and promoting eating fruit, rather than drinking 100 percent juice.
As is usual when such studies get published, the fruit juice industry has taken issue with the findings. They claim that research [funded by the industry] has shown, "Serving 100 percent juice to children in appropriate amounts is not associated with dental cavities in early childhood and in fact, increasing frequency of juice drinking may even have a protective effect on dental health in children."
They added, "Weight is also not an issue, as a systematic scientific review of the evidence found drinking appropriate amounts of 100 percent juice is not associated with weight status or obesity in children."