May 7, 2001 -- Fruit juice tastes sweet and kids love to drink it. But for many, it's become too much of a good thing -- leading to some serious health problems. In a revised policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that parents need to cut back on how much juice their infants, toddlers, young children -- even older children -- are drinking.
Editor's Note: Food Pyramid Replaced
In June 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a new plate icon.
"We've seen a dramatic increase in the amount of fruit juice, fruit drinks, and sodas being consumed by children of all ages," says study author William Cochran, MD, associate professor of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Pa. Cochran is a member of the AAP's Committee on Nutrition.
"Juice is a healthy food when taken in appropriate amounts," he tells WebMD. "But juice is basically water and carbohydrates, and too much can cause many health problems." Among them: malnourishment and stunted growth, tooth decay, obesity, and chronic diarrhea.
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The policy statement outlines the difference between fruit juice and juice drinks. To be labeled as a fruit juice, the FDA mandates that a product be 100% fruit juice. In general, juice drinks contain between 10% and 99% juice as well as added sweeteners, flavors, and sometimes fortifiers such as vitamin C or calcium.
The good news about fruit juices: some have high contents of potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C; some are fortified with vitamin C, which may have beneficial long-term health effects, such as decreasing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Also, when drinks that contain vitamin C are consumed with a meal, they can increase iron absorption by twofold, says Cochran. And juice contains no fat or cholesterol.
The downside: Many fruit juices contain twice the amounts of carbohydrates that human milk and standard infant formulas have, Cochran says. These are in the form of sucrose, fructose, glucose and sorbitol -- all sugars. Unless the pulp is included, it contains no fiber either. Also, fruit juice contains only a small amount of protein and minerals.
And although highly-promoted by manufacturers, calcium-fortified juices have approximately the same calcium content as milk -- but lack other nutrients present in milk and formula, which are important for bone development.