- Fruit juice is loaded with sugar, even if it is all-natural.
- The way our bodies process the sugar in fruit juice is almost identical to how we take in sugar in a can of soda.
- Researchers find time and time again that people who routinely drink more fruit juice die quicker and get more diseases.
- Eating your fruit is a better option.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Drinking fruit juice may seem like a tasty way to stay healthy, but science suggests that fruit juice could actually be out to harm us if consumed over a lifetime.
Researchers in the US have some of the newest evidence on this front: revealing in JAMA that 100% fruit juice is nearly as dangerous for our health as other sugary beverages like soda and other sippables with added sugar.
After analyzing years of health records of more than 13,400 US adults — both black and white — the researchers behind this new study found that “each additional 12-ounce serving” of juice that adults drink per day is associated with a 24% higher risk of death. That doesn’t necessarily mean that juice causes death, there could be other factors in the mix, like how active juice drinkers are, or how healthy their diets are overall. Still, keeping in mind that the study comes on the heels of years of other evidence, this study is just the latest reminder of all the ways that juice is doing terrible things for your body.
The reason juice is bad for people has to do in part with the way our bodies process the sugar in fruit juice, which is almost identical to how we take in the sugar in a can of soda.
“The biological response is essentially the same,” as a team of Harvard researchers also wrote in JAMA recently.
Juice isn’t as good for us as whole fruit
When we drink sugar from beverages such as juice or soda, fructose rushes into the liver, unabated by other key nutrients in whole fruit, such as fiber, that slow down digestion and help us feel full and satiated.
“There’s some pretty good evidence that when we drink liquid calories, like in the sugary beverages, we don’t eat less food as a result,” nutrition professor Jean Welsh at Emory University previously told Business Insider when her research also revealed a link between sugary drinks and death. “It’s basically sugar and water, and no protein or fat to counteract that metabolism.”
Other nutrition experts consistently agree that juice consumption can, over time, lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, and more belly fat.
“You just end up consuming more calories per day, and it leads to weight gain over time,” Vasanti Malik, a research scientist from the Department of Nutrition in the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health told Business Insider earlier this year when she published a study showing that drinking sugar leads to more deaths, especially from cancers and heart problems.
Drinking sugar isn’t just deadly, there’s also compelling evidence it makes us gain more weight, leads to more tooth decay, type-2 diabetes, and fatty liver and heart diseases. It’s true that fruit juice can deliver beneficial doses of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that may improve inflammation and help our cognitive performance.
“However, the question is whether polyphenols and other phytochemicals in fruit juices can counteract the effects of sugars on weight and type 2 diabetes,” as the Harvard researchers said.
What we know for sure is that the exact same beneficial nutrients found in juice can be acquired by eating whole fruits, which could then be paired with a cup of coffee or tea, which are two drinks that may be better for our hearts than juice. Scientists who’ve studied the long-term health differences in juice drinkers versus fruit eaters have found that regular fruit juice-drinking is associated with more diabetes cases, with each additional daily serving of fruit juice upping a person’s odds of contracting diabetes by 7%. Eating fruit, however, has no such detrimental effect.
Whole fruits also have more filling fiber, more antioxidants, and around 35% less sugar than 100% fruit juice. (Just a single banana provides you with around 20% of your daily recommended fiber dose.)
Whatever liquids you tend to prefer to stay hydrated, try to keep fruit juice intake to about 8 ounces per day, or less. If you really hate drinking water, try jazzing up your glass with some citrus wedges like lemons and limes, or maybe even freezing some fresh fruit and using that in place of ice cubes for a cool and refreshing summer treat.