Fruit Juice, Diabetes May Be Linked in Women

"An eight-ounce glass of OJ is 110 calories. A six-ounce orange is 60 calories, takes longer to consume than liquid juice, and stays in the stomach longer due to its nonliquid content," she explains. "People are more satisfied eating an orange than drinking juice."

Dr. Ken Fujioka, director of nutrition and metabolic research at the Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management, has performed head-to-head studies of juice and whole fruit, finding that whole fruit is much better for blood sugar control and weight. He recommends that his patients "eat an orange or banana rather than their morning juice."

A True Link?

Still, the issue may be more complex than those decisions we make in the beverage aisle. In fact, juice may be taking the rap for other unhealthy habits.

So, while it may be true that those people who drink more juice are more likely to develop diabetes, it cannot yet be concluded that juice causes diabetes.

"We may be looking at a marker of eating behavior or lifestyle overall, not just the difference between fresh fruit and fruit juice," says Ayoob. "It may be that people who take the trouble to eat whole fruit are less likely to go for the most convenient foods in general and are willing to take the extra time to stock whole fruit in the home and make time to peel and eat it."

According to Dr. Francine Kaufman, an authority on diabetes and obesity and past president of the American Diabetes Association, "Fruit consumption often tracks with a very high-quality diet."

Dr. William Yancy at the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care agrees. "I would hypothesize that people who consume large amounts of juice have an overall less healthy diet and other behaviors compared with people who consume large amounts of fruits and vegetables," he says.

Additionally, even in light of the average American's 11-gallon-per-year juice consumption, we slurp down almost five times as much soda.

"The bit we often overlook when asking questions about what people are eating is: instead of what?" says Dr. David Katz, co-founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center. "If you are drinking juice instead of soda, you are trading up and it's a good thing. But if you are drinking juice instead of water, it is likely contributing to the common daily excess of sugar and calories, and could be improved."

If there is any silver lining, it may be that Americans are making slow progress in increasing fruit and vegetable intake. And because we're still not eating enough fruit, anything that provides essential vitamins and nutrients is preferable to the less nutritious alternatives, to some degree.

"We benefit both from the good stuff we choose to eat and the less good stuff we choose not to," says Katz. "Fruit is best, then fruit juice, then sugar-sweetened beverages, which offer the liabilities of juice without the advantages."

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