- David Goehring / Flickr
- Fruit juice is loaded with sugar, even if it is “all natural.”
- The way our bodies process the sugar in fruit juice is almost identical to how we take in sugar in a can of soda.
- Researchers find time and time again that people who routinely drink more fruit juice die quicker and get more diseases.
- Eating your fruit is a better option.
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Drinking fruit juice may seem like a tasty way to stay healthy, but science suggests that fruit juice could actually be out to harm us if consumed over a lifetime.
Researchers in the US have some of the newest evidence on this front, with a study in the journal JAMA finding evidence that 100% fruit juice is nearly as dangerous for our health as other sugary beverages like soda and other sippables with added sugar.
After analyzing years of health records of more than 13,400 black and white US adults, the researchers behind the new study found that each additional 12-ounce serving of juice that adults drank each day was associated with a 24% higher risk of death. It doesn’t mean that juice causes death – there could be other factors in the mix, such as juice drinkers’ activity levels and overall diets.
Still, keeping in mind that the study comes on the heels of years of other evidence, it is just the latest reminder of all the ways juice is doing terrible things for your body.
The reason juice is bad for people has to do in part with the way our bodies process the sugar in fruit juice, which is almost identical to the way we take in the sugar in a can of soda.
“The biological response is essentially the same,” as a team of Harvard researchers also wrote in JAMA recently.
Juice isn’t as good for us as whole fruit
When we drink sugar-loaded beverages such as juice or soda, fructose rushes into the liver, unabated by other key nutrients in whole fruit, such as fiber, that slow down digestion and help us feel full and satiated.
“There’s some pretty good evidence that when we drink liquid calories, like in the sugary beverages, we don’t eat less food as a result,” the nutrition professor Jean Welsh at Emory University previously told Business Insider when her research also found a link between sugary drinks and death. “It’s basically sugar and water, and no protein or fat to counteract that metabolism.”
Other nutrition experts consistently agree that juice consumption can, over time, lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, and more belly fat.
“You just end up consuming more calories per day, and it leads to weight gain over time,” Vasanti Malik, a research scientist from the Department of Nutrition in the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, told Business Insider earlier this year when she published a study that found drinking sugar was associated with an increased risk of death, especially from cancers and heart problems.
There’s also compelling evidence that drinking sugar makes us gain more weight and leads to more tooth decay, Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, and heart disease. It’s true that fruit juice can deliver beneficial doses of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that may improve inflammation and help our cognitive performance.
“However, the question is whether polyphenols and other phytochemicals in fruit juices can counteract the effects of sugars on weight and type 2 diabetes,” as the Harvard researchers said.
What we know for sure is that the same beneficial nutrients found in juice can be acquired by eating whole fruits, which could then be paired with a cup of coffee or tea, which are two drinks that may be better for our hearts than juice. Scientists who have studied the long-term health differences in juice drinkers versus fruit eaters have found links between regular fruit-juice drinking and diabetes cases, with one study finding that each additional daily serving of fruit juice was associated with a 7% increase in a person’s chances of contracting diabetes. Studies have found no such detrimental effects connected to eating fruit.
Whole fruits also have more filling fiber, more antioxidants, and about 35% less sugar than 100% fruit juice. A single banana, for example, provides you with about 20% of your daily recommended fiber dose.
Whatever liquids you tend to prefer to stay hydrated, try to keep fruit juice intake to about 8 ounces a day or less. If you really hate drinking water, try jazzing up your glass with some citrus wedges like lemons and limes, or maybe even freezing some fresh fruit and using that in place of ice cubes for a cool and refreshing summer treat.