Fruit juices do play role in healthy diet

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Contrary to what consumers may have heard recently about fruit juice consumption, numerous research studies over the years have found no connection between appropriate consumption of fruit juices and being overweight.Contrary to what consumers may have heard recently about fruit juice consumption, numerous research studies over the years have found no connection between appropriate consumption of fruit juices and being overweight.

A study, published in the February issue of Pediatrics and released yesterday, looked at the role of "sweet drinks" in obesity among preschoolers categorized as normal/underweight or overweight. Sweet drinks were defined as sugar-sweetened and naturally sweet drinks, including "vitamin C juice (orange juice or juice with vitamin C added)," "other juices," "fruit drinks," and "soda."

The study concluded that "with fruit juice only, we found no significant associations for at-risk or normal/underweight children." Among children who were overweight, the association with overweight was positive, but "the results were of only borderline significance."

The study generated much attention and confusion, but actually supports findings of previous research studies which found no statistically significant differences in children's body mass index due specifically to fruit juice intake, says the Juice Products Association.

Research published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association is one such study. That study was based on consumption and growth data from the world-renowned Bogalusa Heart Study, which looked at diet, lifestyle and health outcomes of children over a period of 21 years. The Bogalusa study did not find a significant relationship between sweetened beverage consumption and body mass index and energy intake among children.

Other published research, funded by USDA at the University of Tennessee/Knoxville, looked at a large database of children's beverage intake over several years. That analysis by Dr. Jeanne Skinner found that "although juice intakes were not always moderate, growth parameters did not indicate overweight or short status." She concluded "there were no statistically significant associations between juice [intake] and children's height, weight or body mass index."

The recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, although recommending whole fruit consumption versus fruit juices because of their fiber content, also recommends that Americans consume fruit and vegetable juices to obtain recommended amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate and potassium. Phytonutrients found in fruit juices also need to be considered when making healthy beverage choices, says Carol Freysinger, JPA Executive Director.

The Juice Products Association is the trade association representing the fruit and juice products industry. JPA includes processors, packers, extractors, brokers and marketers of fruit and vegetable juices, juice beverages, fruit jams, jellies and preserves and similar products, as well as industry suppliers and food testing laboratories.

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