Home | News | Regional | Fruit juice should NOT count in our five-a-day because some versions 'contain as much sugar as fizzy drinks'

Fruit juice should NOT count in our five-a-day because some versions 'contain as much sugar as fizzy drinks'

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  • Juice is potentially 'just as bad' as sugary, sweetened drinks, say doctors
  • 250ml of apple juice typically contains 110 calories and 26g of sugar
  • 250ml of cola typically contains 105 calories and 26.5g of sugar
  • People who drank 500ml of grape juice every day for three months had increased insulin resistance and a larger waist circumference
  • Experts say the recommended amount should be no more than 150ml a day

By Rachel Watson and Anna Hodgekiss

PUBLISHED: 06:41 EST, 10 February 2014 | UPDATED: 07:02 EST, 10 February 2014

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Dangerous: Many of us have no idea that fruit juice can be as sugary as cola

Dangerous: Many of us have no idea that fruit juice can be as sugary as cola

Fruit juice should not be classed as one of our five-a-day because some versions contain almost as much sugar as fizzy drinks, scientists have warned.

Researchers from Glasgow University say that drinking fruit juice is potentially ‘just as bad for you’ as sugary, sweetened drinks.

They have asked the UK government to change its guidelines and have also recommended that labels should be placed on fruit juice containers telling people not to drink more than 150ml (¼pt) a day.

A 250ml serving of orange juice contains 115 calories - and many people drink more than this, with many 500ml servings available in high street cafes. 

Even pure fruit juice is said to contain a large amount of naturally-occurring sugar – but people end up drinking too much of it because they do not see it as unhealthy.

Professor Naveed Sattar and Dr Jason Gill, from the university’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, say viewing juice as a fruit equivalent was ‘probably counter-productive’ as it ‘fuels the perception that drinking fruit juice is good for health’.

Writing in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, Professor Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine, and Dr Gill identified a possible link between high fruit juice intake and an increased risk of diabetes.

The researchers believe cutting fruit juice intake could have ‘major health benefits’ such as a fall in obesity and heart problems.

They conducted a trial which concluded that drinking 500ml of grape juice per day for three months increased insulin resistance – which can lead to Type 2 diabetes – as well as the waist circumference in overweight adults.

Although fruit juices do contain vitamins and minerals, which sugar-sweetened drinks do not, Dr Gill argued that this ‘might not be sufficient to offset the adverse metabolic consequences of excessive fruit juice consumption’.

The research also highlighted that a glass of fruit juice contains ‘substantially’ more sugar than a piece of fruit, and that much of the ‘goodness’ in fruit, such as fibre, is often not found in fruit juice.

HOW SOFT DRINKS COMPARE

Fruit juice has a similar energy density and sugar content to other sugary drinks.

For example, 250ml (almost ½pt) of apple juice typically contains 110 calories and 26g (0.91oz) of sugar.

250ml of cola typically contains 105 calories and 26.5g (0.93oz) of sugar.

An apple, on the other hand, contains around 50 calories - and you get the benefit of fibre, creating a feeling of fullness and aiding digestion.

In a test measuring public awareness of sugar content, 48 per cent of those who took the poll underestimated the sugar content of fruit juices and smoothies, while 12 per cent overestimated the sugar content of carbonated drinks.

More than 2,000 adults took part in the survey, in which they were shown pictures of full containers of different non-alcoholic drinks and were asked to estimate the number of teaspoons of sugar in each.

While there have been calls to ban children from drinking fruit juice in the US, the researchers did not recommend this for the UK, and also stated that a fruit juice tax should not be introduced.

Dr Gill said that despite popular belief, fruit juices are not as healthy as they seem.

He added: ‘Contrary to the general perception of the public, and of many healthcare professionals, that drinking fruit juice is a positive health behaviour, their consumption might not be substantially different in health terms than drinking other sugary drinks.’

Professor Sattar said: ‘Fruit juice has a similar energy density and sugar content to other sugary drinks. For example, 250ml (almost ½pt) of apple juice typically contains 110 calories and 26g (0.91oz) of sugar; and 250ml of cola typically contains 105 calories and 26.5g (0.93oz) of sugar.'

An apple, on the other hand, contains around 50 calories - and you get the benefit of fibre, creating a feeling of fullness and aiding digestion.

Warning: The researchers believe cutting fruit juice intake could have 'major health benefits' such as a fall in obesity and heart problems. They add that eating fruit whole is a healthier alternative

Warning: The researchers believe cutting fruit juice intake could have 'major health benefits' such as a fall in obesity and heart problems. They add that eating fruit whole is a healthier alternative

Professor Sattar added: ‘Additionally, by contrast with the evidence for solid fruit intake, for which high consumption is generally associated with reduced or neutral risk of diabetes, current evidence suggests high fruit juice intake is associated with increased risk of diabetes.

‘We have known for years about the dangers of excess saturated fat intake, an observation which led the food industry to replace unhealthy fats with presumed “healthier” sugars in many food products.

‘Helping individuals cut not only their excessive fat intake, but also refined sugar intake, could have major health benefits including lessening obesity and heart attacks.

‘There needs to be a refocus to develop foods which not only limit saturated fat intake but simultaneously limit refined sugar content.’

He added: ‘In the broader context of public health policy, it is important that debate about sugar-sweetened beverage reduction should include fruit juice.’

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