In years past, family physician Pamela Rockwell told parents not to let their children drink too much fruit juice because of its link to obesity.
These days, though, she has changed her advice.
A study this year found no association between childhood obesity and 100 percent fruit juice with no sugar added. “That's big news, and it's made a difference in what I tell my patients,” says Rockwell, D.O., assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System.
Other studies, meanwhile, have found that many fruit juices provide powerful health benefits, Rockwell notes. Research in recent years has identified ways that beverages such as pomegranate, orange and cranberry juices can help to prevent or cure diseases.
Juices that provide health benefits:
Pomegranate juice. Pomegranate juice has received a great deal of attention in recent years for its reported benefits. It is a rich source of antioxidants and has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol – the bad, artery-clogging portion of one's cholesterol, Rockwell says.
It also may slow the growth of prostate cancer. Pomegranate juice has been shown to stabilize the levels of men's PSA, or prostate specific antigen. This protein in the blood is measured to gauge how quickly a man's prostate cancer is progressing. Another study found that pomegranate juice may increase blood flow to the heart in people with ischemic coronary heart disease.
Orange juice. The iconic breakfast drink may help people prevent recurrences of painful kidney stones. A study has found that a daily glass of orange juice can reduce the incidence of kidney stones better than other citrus drinks, such as lemonade.
Cranberry juice. Long thought of as a home remedy for urinary tract infections, cranberry juice now appears to be most helpful before the UTI even develops. Studies indicate that cranberry juice is effective at preventing a UTI, but not at curing an existing infection, Rockwell notes.
Blueberry juice. Blueberries have some of the same properties as cranberries that allow it to prevent UTIs, Rockwell says.
Other studies have indicated that an overall increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces one's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. A 2006 study showed that people who drank fruit or vegetable juices more than three times a week were 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those who drank juice less than once a week.
Drinking fruit juice is not an inherently healthy activity, however. Rockwell warns that many juices contain high levels of corn syrup, typically high fructose corn syrup. She says consumers should look for 100 percent natural fruit juice to avoid corn syrup.
“Corn syrup is related to many bad health issues, such as higher blood sugar and obesity,” Rockwell notes. “It leads to the buildup of fat cells, and contributes to the obesity problem in the U.S. and other industrialized nations.”
For more information, visit these Web sites:
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Rethink your drink
The nonprofit Juice Products Association: Fruit juice facts