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Kids Are Getting Too Much Fruit Juice

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"There is no nutritional reason to feed juice to infants younger than 6 months," Cochran tells WebMD. In fact, according to the policy statement, "Offering juice before solid foods are introduced into the diet could risk having juice replace breast milk or infant formula in the diet. This can result in reduced intake of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and zinc."

Tooth decay in infants and toddlers has been linked with excess juice consumption. "We do not encourage use of 'sippy' cups or putting infants to bed with juices because it promotes tooth decay," he tells WebMD.

Also, infants and young children given too much juice can develop chronic diarrhea, gas, bloating and abdominal pain, says Cochran. "I see many kids with chronic diarrhea, and the reason is they're consuming too much juice," he tells WebMD. "All I do is have them cut back on the juice and the diarrhea goes away. The reason: they're overloading the intestinal track with too much carbohydrate, which ... makes you pass a lot of gas and get diarrhea."

As kids reach adolescence, the potential for obesity escalates as kids ingest too many high-calorie sodas, Cochran says. "A lot of people don't think about all the calories," he tells WebMD. "We also see problems in decreased bone mineralization, because they are not consuming milk." In fact, an estimated 75% of girls are not consuming enough milk, he says.

Along with the AAP recommendations that older children and adolescents drink no more than two 6 ounce servings of fruit juice each day, Cochran says to make sure that kids eat whole fruit -- for the fiber. "Only half the fruit they consume should be in the form of fruit juice," he tells WebMD.

"Excellent paper," says Karen Cullen, DrPH, assistant professor of pediatrics and nutrition for the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "It brings together everything we have been trying to tell people."

"Fruit juice does fit into the diet," Cullen tells WebMD. "It is part of the fruit category on the food pyramid. But we shouldn't be giving juice to children as a pacifier. They should not be sipping it all day. We've forgotten that milk is a healthy beverage, especially with a meal. We've forgotten about water. If kids are thirsty, they should be encouraged to drink water."

Also, because it lacks fiber, fruit juice leads kids to drink more than they should. "It doesn't fill you up like whole fruit does," she says. "You just don't get the cues that you're full, as you do with whole fruit. Therefore, you end up drinking more. You can drink six ounces really fast, and that's about 60 calories a drink - a lot of calories."


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