Squeezing out the truth on juice is hard. Much of the information, coming from medical experts and the juice industry is conflicting. The common belief is that juices are a healthy choice. “100% juice,” “all natural,” “heart wise,” etc. These are the labels we see on the juices we drink. While juice labels tell us of the benefits, there is compelling evidence that shows that drinking juice has serious negative effects. What is fact and what is fiction?
The Juice Products Association, an industry lobbying group created a website, fruitjuicefacts.org to tell its side of the story about 100% fruit juice. On the site, they refute studies showing that juice intake can increase the risk of obesity. Moreover, they share information on the benefits of drinking 100% juice. Their claim is that 100% juice can aid in overall better nutrition by increasing the intake of fruit servings, vitamins, and minerals. Unfortunately, the Juice Products Association extracts many facts on the issue, just like they extract flavor and fiber from the fruit to make juice. For preservation of orange juice, juice makers remove oxygen from the fruit, which causes the fruit to lose its flavor. Later, they infuse the juice with flavoring made by perfume companies. As a result, even though there are high quantities of ethyl butyrate, an artificial flavoring and solvent for perfumes, the juice industry doesn’t have to tell you this fact on the labels because their flavor packs have orange essence and oil.
Another shocking fact is that many fruit juices have just as much sugar as soda! When compared with the same volume of Coke, apple juice (even 100% juice, with no sugar added) has more calories and about the same amount of sugar—a whopping 10 teaspoons! A 20 oz. Gatorade contains 34 grams of sugar, or 11 teaspoons. A 12-ounce glass of orange juice contains 180 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar—which is the same as eating three chocolate chip cookies or half a cup of ice cream.
In the documentary on obesity “The Weight of the Nation,” pediatric obesity expert Dr. Lustig asserts, “Juice is just like soda…There is no difference.” How can that be? Essentially, as far as your body is concerned, there is no difference in the natural sugars found in fruit juices and refined sugars in soda. “The body doesn’t know where it came from, and it’s going to metabolize it the same way” according to Dr. Elizabeth Applegate, Ph.D, senior lecturer and nutritionist at UC Davis. Without a strenuous activity to burn off the sweet fuel, the body will metabolize the sugar into fat.
In the late 90’s, President Clinton and the American Beverage Association made a deal to ban soda from school vending machines because of their high sugar content. 100% fruit juices were allowed to remain because it was considered a “healthier option.” In light of the sugar facts, it doesn’t seem like our kids ended up with a healthier alternative. And considering that most juice found in vending machines is manufactured by the same beverage companies that make soda, it doesn’t seem like the soda industry ended up with such a bad deal after all.
Among those in the medical field, the general consensus is that there is a link between drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit juices, and obesity. In an interview with ABC News.com, Dr. Neal Kaufman, director of the division of academic primary care pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles says, “Humans were not meant to drink their calories. Liquids like fruit juice, composed mostly of sugars, are brought rapidly into the body promoting obesity. Childhood obesity is in epidemic proportions, putting our children at risk for serious diseases, such as diabetes.”
The new name for this epidemic is “diabesity” to show their close connection. As if diabesity wasn’t enough, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that overconsumption of juice can contribute to the development of dental cavities.
So, what were humans meant to drink? The answer is simple-water. Water is refreshing, cleansing, and healing. It acts like a mop that cleans out our bodies of waste and carries nutrients to the different systems of the body. It cools the body and helps digest your food.
Did you know that drinking water makes you look younger by keeping your skin healthy? No fruit juice can claim that on their labels. Drinking water can even help you lose weight because it naturally suppresses the appetite. Plus, it has 0 calories and 0 grams of sugar.
To improve our health and the health of our kids, we need to think outside of the juice box. First, let’s seriously reduce or eliminate our juice intake. Dr. Lustig strongly suggests getting rid of juice to combat obesity. Second, we need to drink water ourselves to be good examples to our kids. Put a fresh slice of lemon, lime, or orange in the water to flavor it. And eat lots of fresh fruit instead of fruit juices. Cut it up for the kids ahead of time and put it in snack packs, so it’s easy to grab.
It’s time to “rethink our drink.” It may be hard to do at first, but think of the benefits. Reducing or eliminating fruit juice will result in weight loss, a lower risk of diabetes, and better overall health.
 “A Scientific Literature Review: Fruit Juice Consumption not Related to Overweight in Children- Fruitjuicefacts.org.” 22, May 2008. Web. 16, July 2012.  “Drinking 100 Percent Fruit Juice is Associated with Improved Nutrient Intake in Children and Adolescents- Fruitjuicefacts.org.” 27, March 2012. Web. 16, July 2012.  Anon. 2011. “Why ‘100% Orange Juice’ Is Still Artificial.” Huffington Post.  Hall, Dave. Hookedonjuice.com. n.p, 2 October, 2006. Web. 16 July. “Sweet Drinks and Obesity- Uc Drinks and Obesity- Ucsfbenioffchildrens.org.” Web. 16, July, 2012.  Anon. “Fruit Juice Targeted in War on Obesity.” Chicago Tribune.  Applegate, Elizabeth Ph.D., interview with Ashley Kim. 31 July, 2012  Olson, Parmy. “Bill Clinton Helps End Soda Sales in Schools- Forbes.com.” 3, May, 2006. Web. 1 August, 2012  Anon. “Pediatricians Warn Against Fruit Juice.”  Committee on Nutrition. “The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics.” Pediatrics 107.5 (2001): 1210 –1213.  “The Skinny on Obesity (Extra): Four Sweet Tips from Dr. Lustig.” UCTVPrime. Web. 19 July 2012.