Juices are adored by many children, and often, the colorful concoctions are a regular part of kids' diets. Labels on juices and smoothies seem to assure parents that what they’re giving their children is healthy -- or at least healthier than soda. A new study suggests, however, that parents may have been misled.
The study -- published recently in the online journal BMJ open -- finds that kids are getting a full day’s amount of sugar from many commercially-sold fruit drinks.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool examined over two hundred 100% natural juices and smoothies marketed to children in the UK and found sugar content to be “unacceptably high.” Smoothies contained the highest amount of sugar.
The team -- led by Professor Simon Capewell -- found that almost half of the juices contained a child’s maximum daily sugar intake of 19 grams (five teaspoons). The researchers say that the labels included a reference on intake, but the guidelines were specific to an active, average-sized adult.
Applicable to U.S.
Although the study looked at juice marketed to children in the UK, experts in the U.S. say the results would likely be very similar had the study been conducted here.
Nancy Copperman, a nutritionist and assistant vice president of public health at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y., believes the excessive amount of added sugars in kids’ fruit drinks significantly adds to empty calories. She believes it’s a problem that “crosses continents.”
"The 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of children's total calories and promotes eating fruit, rather than drinking 100 percent juice, to meet the suggested daily servings of fruits and vegetables," Copperman tells HealthDay.com.
Advice on sugary drinks
Public health officials -- who often call fruit juices “liquid candy” -- say it’s especially important to monitor kids' intake of sugary juices here in the U.S., where one in six children are overweight.
The researchers recommend following a few guidelines in order to prevent children from consuming sugar in excess:
- Fruit should be consumed in its whole form, not as juice.
- Parents should dilute fruit juice with water and only give them during meals.
- Portions should be limited to 150 ml a day.
Full results of the study can be found here.