A new study has found that fruit juices are as harmful to health as lemonade or cola, and consuming them can even lead to an early death.
People who drank a lot of sugary juices were found likely to die early from any cause in the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The study authors compared sugar-sweetened beverages like lemonade and cola with 100 per cent fruit juices.
They found a correlation between early deaths and the consumption of both sugary drinks and fruit juices, though they admitted that more research is needed.
One of the scientists said consuming a single 150ml glass of fruit juice each day was safe.
The study followed over 13,400 participants over a course of six years. Their intake of fruit juices and sugary drinks was recorded by the study authors.
More than 1,000 study participants died from any cause during the study period while 168 people died from coronary heart disease.
The average calorie intake of study participants was found to be 4 per cent from fruit juices and 8.4 per cent from sugar-sweetened drinks.
Those who consumed 10 per cent or more calories from the drinks were considered to have a high intake.
After accounting for factors such as obesity, the participants were found to have a 24 per cent increased risk of dying for every extra 12oz of fruit juice they consumed.
Likewise, they were found to have an 11 per cent increased risk for every extra 12oz of sugar-sweetened drink they consumed.
‘These results suggest higher consumption of sugary beverages, including fruit juice, is associated with increased mortality,’ the team of researchers, from Emory University in Atlanta and Cornell University in New York, said.
‘The nutrient content of 100 percent fruit juices and SSBs (sugar-sweetened beverages) is very similar.
‘While 100 percent fruit juices contain some vitamins and phytonutrients that are missing from most SSBs, the predominant ingredients in both are sugar and water.
‘Although the sugar in SSBs is added during processing and the sugar in 100 percent fruit juice occurs naturally, the specific sugars they provide for the body to process are essentially the same, and the biochemical response when metabolized is the same.’
The researchers also highlighted the probable factors which increased the risk of early death due to the consumption of sugary drinks.
Besides obesity as an obvious factor, the other factors included insulin resistance, diabetes, altered blood lipid levels, blood pressure, and inflammation.
‘This is a very important study, especially as fruit juices are often seen as a ‘healthy’ alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages, even though they often contain much more sugar (especially smoothies),’ Dr Gunter Kuhnle, associate professor in nutrition and health at the University of Reading, explained.
‘Fruit juices can provide vitamins and even some fiber, but there is little health benefit beyond this: the amount of phytochemical found in juices is too low to have any further beneficial effect, and there is no beneficial health effect from so-called antioxidants.
‘If the association is shown to be causal (which we don’t know yet), this would have a number of implications: first of all, it would suggest that it does not matter whether sugary drinks are lemonades or fruit juices.
‘This is important, as fruit juices and smoothies are not commonly perceived as sugary drinks. Secondly, it would suggest purported health benefits of fruit juices are not sufficient to counteract their sugar content.
‘Fruit juices are a poor replacement for actual fruit consumption, in particular as they can be much more easily over-consumed.
‘Indeed, a 150ml glass of orange juice is made from about two oranges – but it takes much longer to eat two oranges than to drink the juice.
‘In the UK, the general recommendation is that a 150ml glass of fruit juice can provide one of the five-a-day, but not more.
‘This is less than half of the amount found in this study to result in a modest increase in mortality, so there is no suggestion from this study that one glass a day is problematic.’
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