Pediatricians Warn Against Fruit Juice

N E W   Y O R K, May 7, 2001 -- Too much fruit juice a day will not keep the doctor away, a group of pediatricians is saying.

The American Academy of Pediatricians is telling parents that infants who drink too much fruit juice may become malnourished if the beverage replaces human milk or formula.

Children are the largest consumers of fruit juice in the United States and, experts say, that besides not providing needing nutrients, the extra calories from the sweet beverage may be contributing to the current epidemic of childhood obesity.

Sugar in Fruit Juice May Lead to Diarrhea

Fruit juice does not contain a significant amount of protein, fat, minerals or vitamins, other than Vitamin C, according to the pediatricians.

It does contain carbohydrate, in the form of sugar, which if consumed in large amounts can result in diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence.

Although some fruit juices are fortified with calcium to promote healthy bones and teeth, many do not, the doctors say. In fact, a child holding a bottle, cup or box of fruit juice in the mouth during the day or at bedtime may actually be at increased risk for tooth decay.

Parents, the doctors say, also should be aware some fruit drinks or "cocktails" do not contain 100 percent fruit juice, but include extra sweeteners, artificial flavors and other ingredients.

The academy says 100 percent fruit juice can be a healthy part of a child's diet, if it is provided in appropriate amounts.

The group is issuing its policy statement about fruit juice consumption in the current issue of the medical journal Pediatrics.

Juices May Lead to Obesity

Nutritionists interviewed by endorsed the pediatricians' suggestions.

"I completely agree with the statement," says Dr. Neal Kaufman, director of the division of academic primary care pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

"Humans were not meant to drink their calories. Liquids like fruit juice, composed mostly of sugars, are brought rapidly in the body promoting obesity. Childhood obesity is in epidemic proportions, putting our children at risk for serious diseases, such as diabetes."

Elizabeth Ward, registered dietitian and author of Healthy Food, Healthy Families: Feeding Your Child from Birth to Six Years Old, says parents often view juice as healthy and they think if a little is good, a lot is better.

"But this is misguided for two reasons," says Ward. "Kids tend to drink more calories than they eat, contributing to the obesity epidemic, because juice is fiber free and is not filling like whole fruit and because juice … crowds out milk."

By drinking too much fruit juice, she says, children are not getting enough calcium and Vitamin D, both of which are found in milk. In some parts of the country, rickets (or a Vitamin D deficiency) is on the rise.