Full o' Juice

Orange Juice: Sugary Hazard or Healthful Beverage?

Remember when “breakfast without orange juice was like a day without sunshine”? The Nutrition Source at Harvard, consistent with many public health nutrition experts, presents a different view these days. It classifies fruit juice alongside alcoholic beverages as something to be consumed sparingly. Whole milk gets the same treatment, by the way. Consumer Reports tells us that “fruit juice is nearly as bad for you as soda.”

The problem is free sugars. As part of the current campaign to drive sugar out of diets all around the world, the sugar is fruit juice is counted as a problem. The WHO classifies it as “free sugar” and recommends strict limits on its consumption.

Eight ounces of orange juice has 21 grams of free sugar. That’s close to a recommended limit of 25 grams for a whole day.

But along comes a randomized controlled trial of orange juice incorporated into a reduced-calorie diet. In this small study just published in Nutrition, researchers randomly assigned people to follow a reduced calorie diet with or without 16 oz of orange juice daily. That’s a pretty hefty daily serving. After 12 weeks both groups had similar weight loss. Subjects in the OJ group had better metabolic parameters, such as insulin sensitivity, lipids, and markers of inflammation.

Now, it’s easy enough to dismiss this study. It had only 78 participants. Researchers at São Paulo State University conducted the study with funding from the Brazilian citrus industry. Big orange wants to stop the steady decline in our consumption of oranges and orange juice.

However, the researchers do seem to have a point worth considering. Broad, indiscriminate warnings about fruit juices have the potential to obscure their dietary value. Moderate consumption of fruit juices is hardly a hazard. The challenge lies in finding that moderation.

Click here for the study in Nutrition.

Full o’ Juice, 1930s Orange Crate Label from the Boston Public Library / flickr

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January 16, 2017

3 Responses to “Orange Juice: Sugary Hazard or Healthful Beverage?”

  1. January 16, 2017 at 6:32 am, J Herrera said:

    The definition of moderation is not daily consumption, that would be called addiction, it is up to us as health care professionals to better educate our patients.

    • January 16, 2017 at 6:41 am, Ted said:

      Thanks for taking time to comment, J. It’s worth noting that most of us consume foods daily, sometimes in moderation and sometimes not. It’s a necessity, not an addiction.

  2. January 16, 2017 at 8:57 am, Al Lewis said:

    There you go again with your nuanced, thoughtful postings. You’re gonna lose your whole audience. Do think Trump would have gotten elected if he had said: “On the one hand, let’s make America great again. On the other hand, America already is great” ?