How Does Fruit Juice Affect Weight Gain in Children? Interview with:

Brandon Auerbach, MD, MPH Acting Instructor Division of General Internal Medicine University of Washington

Dr. Auerbach

Brandon Auerbach, MD, MPH
Acting Instructor
Division of General Internal Medicine
University of Washington What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The question of whether 100% fruit juice causes poor health outcomes in children, such as weight gain, has been a subject of controversy. On one hand, 100% fruit juice contains vitamins and nutrients that many children lack, is often cheaper than whole fruit, and may help kids with limited access to healthy food meet their daily fruit requirements.

On the other hand, leading nutrition experts have expressed concern that fruit juice contains amounts of sugar equal to or greater than those of sugary drinks like regular soda. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics warn that 100% juice can be a significant source of calories and contribute to obesity if consumed excessively.

Our main finding was that consuming 1 serving/day of 100% fruit juice was not associated with weight gain in children. Children ages 1 to 6 years gained a small amount of weight, but not enough to negatively impact health. Children ages 7 and older gained no weight. We did not study amounts of 100% fruit juice higher than 1 serving/day. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There’s a place in a healthy diet for 100% fruit juice in moderation. Our results support current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics: that children ages 1-6 limit 100% fruit juice to 4-6 ounces per day and children ages 7-18 limit juice to 8-12 ounces a day. At the same time, my coauthors and I agree with the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that kids should have whole fruit instead of 100% fruit juice whenever possible, since whole fruit is a good source of fiber, and has fewer calories than 100% fruit juice. Even high-pulp orange juice has little fiber compared to whole fruits. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The current evidence on 100% fruit juice and children’s health is limited, because there have been no randomized controlled trials on this topic. We could really use a randomized controlled trial in children ages 1 to 6 years of age. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Our authorship team is from the University of Washington, in Seattle, and we have no conflicts of interest or disclosures. Part of the reason we performed this meta-analysis is that there are review papers and cross-sectional studies of 100% fruit juice and health outcomes like weight gain that have been sponsored by beverage industry groups—specifically PepsiCo® and the Juice Products Administration—which to us raised concern about the influence of these funders.

Our meta-analysis pooled the highest quality studies on 100% fruit juice and weight gain in children, 8 prospective studies, and found that consuming 1 serving/day 100% fruit juice was not associated with weight gain.

A final point is that parents sometimes confuse 100% fruit juice with juice drinks, which have added sugar and are equally as harmful as regular soda. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Fruit Juice and Change in BMI: A Meta-analysis

Brandon J. Auerbach, Fred M. Wolf, Abigail Hikida, Petra Vallila-Buchman, Alyson Littman, Douglas Thompson, Diana Louden, Daniel R. Taber, James Krieger
Pediatrics March 2017

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on March 24, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD