February 24, 2024

Even 100 percent fruit juice could be causing your kids to gain weight, according to a new study.

Childhood obesity affects roughly 14.7 million children and teenagers in the United States, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While parents might consider it a healthy option, juice drinks could be part of the problem.

Fruit juice is high in free sugars and calories while containing little to no fiber. As a result, children are likely to consume more calories from fruit juice than the whole fruit.

“The consumption of liquid calories has been shown to result in greater weight gain compared to the consumption of solid calories,” Michelle Nguyen, a PhD candidate in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, told Newsweek.

“Further, the lack of dietary fiber in fruit juice compared to its whole fruit form can result in decreased satiety. In children specifically, studies have indicated that early introduction of fruit juice may lead to increased risk of overweight and obesity due to increased preference for sweet food.”

In a recent meta-analysis published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, Nguyen and colleagues assessed data from 42 different studies, including over 45,851 child participants and 268,095 adults.

“This review is the first to assess 100 percent fruit juice consumption and body weight gain in children and adults utilizing both prospective cohort studies (which follow large groups of people over time to assess relationships between exposures such as diet and lifestyle with health outcomes) and randomized control trials (which assign groups of people to an intervention or control and examine differences in outcomes between the group),” Nguyen said.

“The use of both of these study designs is critical to examine the totality of evidence.”

While no significant associations were shown between fruit juice and weight gain in adults, a significant correlation was seen in children. The association between weight gain and fruit juice could be seen with as little as an 8-ounce glass a day, with each additional serving linked to an increasingly higher body mass index.

“Younger children [also showed] greater weight gain than older children,” Nguyen said. “We were surprised to see the age gradient in children [but] these findings make sense as a serving of 100 percent fruit juice will encompass a larger proportion of calories in a younger child than it would in an older child.”

The team conducted an additional analysis to assess different types of fruit juice and weight gain. And while these results weren’t statistically significant, some interesting patterns began to emerge.

Kids drinking juice
Stock image of two kids drinking juice. Even just one glass of juice a day has been associated with weight gain, particularly among younger kids.

FamVeld/Getty

“Interestingly, we found the ‘superfood’ type juices—pomegranate, tart cherry, and berry (goji, barberry, bilberry, and currant), tended towards weight loss, whereas apple, citrus, and grape juices tended towards weight gain,” Nguyen said. “The trend with ‘superfood’ type juices was rather interesting and is an area I would like to see further research on.”

Nguyen said that the study’s findings were in line with the American Academy of Paediatric’s age-specific guidelines for fruit juice intake in children: “4 ounces per day for children 1-3 years, 4 to 6 ounces for children 4-6 years, and less than 8 ounces for children 7-18 years.”

Nguyen stressed the importance of moderating serving size and opting for water or whole fruits where possible.

Is there a health problem that’s worrying you? Do you have a question about weight loss? Let us know via [email protected]. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured in Newsweek.