A new study conducted in the UK found that a single serving of many commercially sold juices and drinks can contain a full day's worth of sugar in one serving — and one US nutrition expert was not surprised.
"I believe the results would be very similar if this study was conducted with fruit drink products available in the United States," said Pamela Koch, executive director of the nutrition program at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City. "Many fruit drinks are excessively high in added sugars, as this study found. Yet, these are often marketed as healthful products, confusing parents and children," she said.
The study's lead researcher was Simon Capewell, a professor at the Institute of Psychology, Health, and Society at the University of Liverpool. His colleagues determined the levels of "free sugars" in 200-milliliter (almost 7 ounces) of 203 fruit drinks, 100% natural juices, and smoothies that are sold expressly for kids.
Free sugars are those that are added to products, including fructose, glucose, table sugar, and sucrose, along with natural sugars, such as honey, syrups, fruit juices, and fruit juice concentrates. Sugars that are naturally found in whole fruits and vegetables are not considered free sugars, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Almost 50% of products for kids in the study had at least the entire maximum recommended daily sugar consumption of sugar, which is 19 grams or five teaspoons, report the researchers.
They said that many parents who knew that sodas and other sweetened drinks have high sugar contents were changing their children's beverages to the apparently healthier smoothie and fruit juice options.
"Unfortunately, our research shows that these parents have been misled," Capewell said. "The sugar content of the fruit drinks, including natural fruit juices and smoothies tested, is unacceptably high. And smoothies are among the worst offenders."
The solution is to give young ones, whenever possible, fresh fruit instead of fruit juice. If parents give their children fruit juice, they should be sure that they choose unsweetened juice, add water to the juice, serve it only with meals, and serve only 5 ounces a day, explained Capewell.
He added that it was time for manufacturers to stop adding unnecessary sugar, which means adding more calories as well, to fruit drinks, juices, and smoothies.
Manufacturers of 100% fruit juices dismissed the study. The US-based Juice Products Association said parents should choose to serve 100% juice to their kids. In recommended amounts, they stated, the beverage is not associated with dental cavities and may even have a protective effect on youngsters' dental health.
Some past research suggests fruit itself has enough sugar content to justify restraint, reports Dana Dovey of Medical Daily.
The study was published online in the British Medical Journal. The authors noted that free sugars metabolized in the body in a different manner than sugars found in fruits' natural state. The presence of additional fiber in whole fruits keeps the fruits' sugars from being broken down too fast.
When an overabundance of sugar is in the body without an effective way to burn it off, no matter what type of sugar it may be, there is a risk of gaining unhealthy weight or developing diabetes.