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It depends which child you’re talking about. For those who do not have weight issues, fruit juice can be a true friend. It’s full of micronutrients as plentiful as whole fruit and better by far than any type of soda or power drink. But for those who gain weight easily, especially children, it can be a true fiend worthy of any health powered superhero’s attention.

To have this make sense, you need to understand the real benefit of whole fruit. Whole fruit, most whole fruit, is fiber rich. The simple sugars of fruit, sucrose, fructose, and glucose, attach themselves to the fiber. Fiber is digested slowly so it releases the sugars slowly and doesn’t overload the liver. This allows the liver to process then pass the sugar to the pancreas at a rate it can handle.

Juice is devoid of fiber.

All those simple sugars are released all at once and overburden the liver and pancreas. For many, that’s just fine, but for those with weight issues, especially blood sugar issues, you can see how that can create a problem. We need that fiber. Our pancreas and liver need that fiber.

For children already showing signs of forthcoming weight issues the value of fruit juice needs to be re-examined.

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In a study done with children between the ages of 1 and 4, those with weight issues who were given fruit juice gained adipose tissue (fat) where children who did not have weight issues were fine. Another study of German adolescent boys and girls showed that fruit juice had a direct correlation to higher BMI in girls. Not the boys, just the girls. Another study in Guatemala found that fruit juice either homemade or store-bought created significant increases in BMI of the children studied. They did not report the differences between gender. Another study of U.S. children between the ages of 2-5 had the same results.

100% fruit juice is marketed as the healthy alternative to corn syrup based drinks. While warnings about not putting juice in baby bottles because of the damage sugar does to teeth are prevalent there are none regarding juice potentially impacting our children’s weight.

Health advocates always talk about the benefits of juicing. It’s been a thing for a long time and isn’t going away. No one wants to hear it could be anything but revolutionary in today’s quest for ultimate health.

What About Jack?

Jack Lalane, the godfather of fitness and health was big on juicing. How could it be wrong for anyone?

It wouldn’t be if we all had the same metabolism and appetite. For those of us with weight issues, it’s a different story. Especially for young children who are already susceptible to weight issues.

It’s imperative for parents and grandparents of children to understand not all children are the same in how their bodies handle sugar. For those who gain weight easily, fruit juice should be taken off the table.

There is another reason fruit juice, fruit rollups and other condensed and dehydrated fruit snacks are a problem for our children and even adults with weight issues. They are energy dense but low in fiber. That means, they are packed with calories but bring no sense of satiety. Children with bigger appetites get no real sense of fulfillment from these fruit products and therefore tend to consume more calories in a day than they would if they didn’t have them. It’s not that the fruit juice causes increased appetite, it’s that the fruit juice didn’t replace other foods in the day the way whole fruit would.

A study done with 15,000 American pre-adolescent and adolescent children suggested that the consumption of fruit without adjusting for the increased calories resulted in weight gain. For overweight children, this might be the greatest clue to what’s happening.

Whole fruit with all its fiber digests slowly and holds a child and adult’s appetite and hunger at bay. If a child feels satisfied, he or she is less likely to overeat. But 200 calories of juice is no more filling than water and the child may want to continue eating, therefore, elevating total calories for the day. Which we all know causes weight gain.

To be an overweight or obese child is hard on the child and those who love her. Don’t be taken in by the convenience of those cute little boxes with their sharp little straws? For an overweight child they could lead toward a lifetime of struggle.

Juicing can be great for many. But if your little one is already showing signs of becoming overweight or obese it’s time to put the juice away and hand those angels whole fruit. Let the fiber, the micronutrients and phytochemicals so prevalent in fruit work their magic against childhood obesity.

One warning though. Not all fruits are created equal. High sugar fruits like dates, bananas and grapes may add to weight problems rather than help them. Learn the importance of low glycemic load fruits when looking for the best foods to feed your children. You can’t go wrong with berries, melons, apples, pears, oranges, and stone fruit. They are high in fiber and make for delicious snacks.

Become your overweight child’s advocate not by lecturing or starting them on diet plans. Learn healthy lifestyle changes your whole family can enjoy. Start with throwing out those juice boxes and handing out whole fruit instead.

 

References:

Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity.
Sharma SP, Chung HJ, Kim HJ, Hong ST.
Nutrients. 2016 Oct 14;8(10). pii: E633. Review.
PMID: 27754404

 

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