Children and adolescents are drinking higher amounts of less nutritious fruit- flavoured beverages and carbonated soft drinks than pure fruit juice, with a possible negative impact on their health, suggests new research published in the January 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association .
The relationship between children's juice intake and their growth has been debated for years. Researchers from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences analysed beverage consumption of more than 10,000 children from various age groups. They found that, while most children are within guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics for juice intake, children's consumption of carbonated beverages and fruit-flavoured drinks surpasses their intake of 100 per cent juice as early as aged five years old.
"Our research found that at around age seven, children's consumption of 100 per cent real juice flat-lines, while intake of fruit-flavoured beverages increases. By the time children turn 13 years old, they are drinking nearly four times more carbonated soft drinks than 100 per cent juice," said lead researcher Gail Rampersaud. "It's inaccurate to single out juice for this country's beverage-related nutrition problems, when we see consumption of carbonated and fake fruit juice beverages continue to rise throughout adolescence."
"Consuming 100 per cent fruit juice has been positively associated with children achieving recommended nutrient intakes," said Miami-based dietician and ADA spokesperson Sheah Rarback. "In fact, 100 per cent juice supplies a variety of nutrients such as vitamins A and C, folate and magnesium."
Rampersaud added that fruit-flavoured drinks that are fortified with vitamin C are not as nutritious as pure fruit juice. The researchers warned that these fruit-flavoured drinks and "-ades" often contain 10 per cent or less real fruit juice, have added sweeteners and may not supply the critical nutrients in amounts found in pure fruit juice.
Rarback also noted that although some beverages are fortified with vitamins or calcium, they are not as nutritious as pure fruit juice. Juice is also recommended as a way to reach the 'five-a-day' intake of fruit and vegetables.
The study was conducted at the University of Florida, with support from the Florida Department of Citrus.