Putting the Squeeze on Juice
When you hear the phrase "All things in moderation," fruit juice
probably doesn't come to mind, but most pediatricians caution parents that
allowing kids to drink excessive amounts of juice is a recipe for poor
Studies over the past decade have shown a host of potential problems with
fruit juice consumption in children, and the American Academy of Pediatrics
(AAP) Committee on Nutrition even issued a policy statement in 1991 telling
doctors to caution parents about the dangers.
The Dangers of Excess Juice
- Juices fill kids with empty calories. "Fruit juices can fill kids up so
that they're not hungry at the dinner table and are too full to eat more
nutritious foods," warns Carlos Lifschitz, MD, an associate professor of
pediatrics at the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of
Medicine in Houston, Texas.
- Certain juices are associated with tummy troubles. Some fruit juices --
including apple, pear, and prune -- contain sorbitol, a naturally occurring but
problematic sugar alcohol. Because sorbitol is not completely absorbed in the
small bowel, it makes its way to the large bowel where it ferments and produces
gas, says Lifschitz. In addition, many of the juices that contain sorbitol also
have an imbalance in the ratio of the sugars fructose and glucose, which may
reduce fructose absorption. These factors can lead to cramps, diarrhea, or loss
of appetite in a child, says Lifschitz.
Several studies have reported this malabsorption, or incomplete digestion,
including a study published in the October 1999 Archives of Pediatrics and
Adolescent Medicine. In the study, researchers gave infants either pear
juice, which contains sorbitol and a "bad" fructose to glucose ratio,
or white grape juice, which contains no sorbitol and has a "good"
fructose to glucose ratio. The infants drank between 90 and 120 milliliters
(between .4 and .5 cups). Researchers found signs of malabsorption in five of
the seven infants given pear juice, as compared to only two of the seven who
drank grape juice. The authors recommended giving children only non-sorbitol
juices (for example, grape and citrus).
- Unpasteurized juices may contain the Salmonella organism. The Food
and Drug Administration issued a nationwide alert to consumers in July 1999
warning of a Salmonella muenchen outbreak due to contaminated
unpasteurized juice; the juice had labels identifying it as "freshly
squeezed" or "fresh." The Salmonella organism can cause
serious and even fatal infections in young children. To stay safe, buy
pasteurized juice for children.
How Much Is Too Much?
All that said, kids love juice, and a little bit each day is fine. Lifschitz
recommends no more than one ounce daily per three pounds of body weight, or
about 1.2 cups for the average two year old and 1.8 cups for a five year