It isn’t startling news that several risk factors are linked to drinking soda. Those risk factors include diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and obesity, to name a few. Now a new study has discovered that the risk of cancer and breast tumors is the same for those that drink soda as it is for those that drink unsweeted fruit juice. Despite the widespread belief that fruit juices are safer, and a healthier alternative than soda, the new information sheds light on the true implications of consuming juices.
While the study uncovered the link between consumption of fruit juice and cancer, that isn’t to establish causation. The study did not explore the reason behind the link and several theories are being explored. Researchers speculate that the sugar in fruit juice impacts visceral fat, blood sugar levels, and inflammation, which can all play a role in the development of cancer. Additives in the ingredients- such as pesticides used on the fruits could also be a reason behind the link. Regardless, it is clear that there is a negative impact occurring from people consuming fruit juices, sodas, and other high sugar drinks.
While earlier studies have shown that added sugar intake from food and beverages increased the risk of cardiovascular mortality among U.S. adults, the JAMA Network Open study provides evidence that fruit juices alone appear to elevate mortality risks. The study found that each additional 12-ounce serving of fruit juice consumed daily is associated with a 24% higher all-cause mortality risk. Each additional 12-ounce serving of sugary beverages consumed daily is associated with an 11% higher all-cause mortality risk. Think of it this way- between drinking juice with snacks, meals, and grabbing for something to quench thirst, people could potentially consume between 48-60 ounces of juice a day, soaring their chances for developing health issues over the long-term.
One challenge in the pursuit of decreasing sugar consumption in the form of drinks among children and adults is overcoming the misconception that fruit juice is healthier than other sugary drinks. While the sugar in fruit juices are 100% naturally occurring and there are some vitamins and phytonutrients not present in most sugar-sweetened beverages, once the body metabolizes the sugar, the biological response is essentially the same as it is to added sugar.
It should be noted that previous studies have shown some benefit from fruit juice consumption. Studies showed that moderate consumption (meaning less than 7 glasses/ week) was tied to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, especially stroke, and cognitive decline. A study completed earlier this year examined the daily consumption of orange juice and found that it was associated with substantially lower odds of poor subjective cognitive function among men middle-aged and older.
The potential reason for the findings may be related to the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols found in some 100% fruit juices. These nutrients are thought to reduce oxidative stress (meaning the imbalance of free radicals and and antioxidants in your body), and inflammation, as well as improve cognitive performance. But, the benefits, such as the polyphenols can also be found in whole fruits, which have higher amounts of dietary fiber and are an essential part of a healthy diet. To avoid the negative impact of fruit juices, reach for water. If you’re hungry, choose whole, fresh fruit or vegetables over pre-packaged, processed foods that present a host of other concerns.
While fruit juice has long been suggested to be a healthy alternative to soda and other high sugar drinks, evidence suggests that the category of drinks (even those labeled all natural, and unsweetened) should also be avoided to prevent the serious health risks that have been linked. As studies outline the exact cause for the increase in health risks, we can more accurately determine what amount of consumption may be safe. In the meantime, water is once again crowned as the best choice for hydration and health.