Doctors suggest children should drink less juice

February 16, 2005 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Doctors suggest children should drink less juice

Recent researcher suggests a link between sweet drinks, natural or otherwise, to a host of child health concerns, everything from bulging bellies to tooth decay.

Researchers say most sweet beverages - even those 100 percent, all -natural, no-sugar added drinks - are the same in terms of their effects on the health of children due to their high sugar content. In fact, researchers claim that juice is only minimally better than soda drinks. The trouble is that parents who are quick to limit a child's soft drink consumption often overlook or even encourage juice indulgence thanks to the beverage's good-for-you image.

Though juice can be part of a healthy diet in moderation, it is essentially water and sugar. In fact, a 12-ounce bottle of grape soda has 159 calories. The same amount of unsweetened grape juice packs 228 calories.

The overuse of juice is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the rise of soda, juice and other sweetened drinks during the latter half of the 20th century, water and milk were children's primary beverages. With an overall increase in childhood obesity, health officials now say high-calorie beverages have little place in a young child's diet.

In addition, in the case of very young children, too much juice reduces the appetite for nutritionally superior breast milk or formula. In older children, it often supplements other foods, potentially adding hundreds of excess calories.

In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines saying fruit juice should not be given to children younger than 6 months, and that there is no nutritional reason to give it to them before their first birthday. After that, juice is optional, though the group favours whole produce and urges parents to limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day for children up to 6 years old, and to no more than 8 to 12 ounces for older children.

Those guidelines concern the juice industry, which markets 6 3/4-ounce juice boxes and bags to kids. Children drink about a quarter of all juice consumed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While juice can be a healthy way to occasionally get picky children to consume more fruit, researchers say using it too often can exacerbate bad eating habits by training kids to prefer -- and hold out for -- something sweet.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.