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A new study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal suggests high-sugar content in fruit juices makes them just as bad as sweetened carbonated drinks and sodas.
The researchers who conducted the study — Jason Gill, M.D., and Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine, with the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow in Scotland — are calling for changes in “five-a-day” healthy-food guidelines to exclude fruit juice from the list of fruits and vegetable servings that count toward it.
Including fruit juice among recommended healthy foods is “probably counter-productive,” because it leads people to believe it should not need to be limited, as is the case with less healthy foods, the researchers said. They also urge food companies to change container labels of such products to recommend drinking no more than 150 milliliters a day — less than a cup — in light of new research linking high sugar intake to heart disease.
“There seems to be a clear misperception that fruit juices and smoothies are low-sugar alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Dr. Gill.
Sattar added, for instance, that a cup of apple juice typically contains 26 grams of sugar — virtually the same level as a cup of cola.
“One glass of fruit juice contains substantially more sugar than one piece of fruit,” he explained. “In addition, much of the goodness in fruit — fiber, for example — is not found in fruit juice, or is there in far smaller amounts.”
In 2012, Harvard University researchers reported in the journal Circulation that daily consumption of sugar drinks raises a man’s heart disease risk by 20 percent. Americans’ higher consumption of sugary drinks has led to more diabetes and heart disease over the past decade, according to another study presented at recent American Heart Association.
Although fruit juices contain vitamins and minerals, the levels of nutrients are not enough to offset the unhealthy effect that excessive consumption has on metabolism, said Dr. Gill.
For example, he noted one of the studies cited in the new Lancet research found individuals who drank a half-liter of pure grape juice every day for three months had bigger waists and increased insulin resistance — a hallmark of diabetes — despite the drink’s high antioxidant properties.