Fruit Juice Could Be Causing Your Child to Gain Weight

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The ingredients in most juices include “100 percent fruit juice,” but what does that really mean?

Scientists recently published a study that looked at the association between 100 percent fruit juice consumption and body mass index scores in children. One serving of six to eight ounces of 100 percent fruit juice was linked to an increased BMI score for children aged one to six years old.

Credit: Brett Neilson/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

No BMI score increase was found in children aged seven to 18 years old. Lead study author Brandon Auerbach, a physician and instructor at the University of Washington, said he recommends a small intake of fruit juice.

“I think caution is definitely in order and that when possible, parents should give whole fruit to kids, instead of fruit juice,” Auerbach said to CNN. “Water or low-fat unsweetened milk are other good alternatives to 100 percent fruit juice.”

The study reviewed eight different observational studies on 100 percent fruit juice consumption and child weight gain, using BMI scores for measurement. For children ages one to six, weight gain was found to increase through BMI scores but not significantly enough to cause concern.

Dean Schillinger, a professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco who was not involved with the study, said while weight gain was minimal there were factors to keep in mind.

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“For a 5-year-old, 40-pound girl, consuming four to eight ounces of 100 percent fruit juice daily for a year will be associated with her gaining an extra quarter-pound, compared to if she had not been drinking that juice,” Schillinger said. “The effect of daily consumption appears to be amplified the longer a young child is exposed to daily fruit juice. Consuming fruit juice daily for two years was associated with a significantly greater amount of weight gain.”

The study overall did not show any significant weight gain, but the data from the observational studies demonstrated clinically significant weight gain for children younger than the age of two. The observational studies used were not randomized or controlled, which adds some limitations, Auerbach said.  

“We did not examine other important health outcomes besides weight gain, such as diabetes risk, because too few studies exist on this topic in children,” Auerbach said. “It may be possible that this age group is at higher risk for weight gain from drinking 100 percent fruit juice than older children.”

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The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than four to six ounces of 100 percent fruit juice per day for children ages one to six. Children ages seven to 18 should limit fruit juice consumption to a maximum of two servings per day. Fruit juice shouldn’t be given to infants, Auerbach said.

“In terms of health benefits, children need at least one to two servings of fruit each day, and 100 percent fruit juice has lots of vitamins, minerals and nutrients like antioxidants,” he said. “Our study findings support the current guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics on 100 percent fruit juice consumption.”

The study was published in Pediatrics and recommends that more studies be conducted to observe the association between 100 percent fruit juice and weight gain in children.

Tori Linville
Tori Linville is a freelance writer and editor from Clarksville, Tennessee. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she’s faithfully watching her alma mater, the University of Alabama, dominate the football field.