Are you making a conscious effort to be healthier and as a result giving yourself and your children fruit juices? Well you could be serving them more sugar than what is in Coca-Cola, according to a leading health group.
Action on Sugar surveyed more than 200 juices, smoothies and fruit drinks to find that more than a quarter contained the same level of sugar or more as Coca-Cola, which has 10.6g for every 100ml.
Research carried out revealed the worst offenders, including Asda’s Chose by Kids Tropical Juice from Concentrate, which contains 13g of sugar per 100ml, and Tesco Goodness Slurper Apple & Banana Fruit Smoothie Snack for Kids, which contains 16.1g of sugar per 100ml.
The survey specifically looked at juices that are aimed at children, or marketed as lunch-box friendly.
Nutritionist Kawther Hashem said to the BBC: “Parents do not always understand the difference between a juice drink and a fruit juice. And most cartons come in 200ml or more.
“Many parents are still buying fruit juices and juice drinks for their children thinking they are choosing healthy products; children should be given as little juice as possible.”
She said that juice should be an occasional treat, not an everyday drink.
Dr Sally Norton, NHS weight-loss surgeon & founder of Vavista.com commented on the research: “The sugar from fruit is ‘natural’, for sure, but that doesn’t mean it is good for you – deadly nightshade is natural too! Don’t be lulled into the marketing ploy of an ‘all-natural’ juice – sugar is sugar, and we need to keep on top of our consumption.
“The type of sugar in fruit is called fructose – a sugar that doesn’t cause so many blood sugar spikes (the long-term effects of which can lead to type-2 diabetes) but one that may increase the amount of fat stored in the liver – which in turn can cause disease. A small amount of fructose in an apple is unlikely to cause problems as it is mixed in with fibre anyway, which helps protect us from the sugar’s effects and slows its absorption. However, strip the fibre away to leave just the juice and it is absorbed more quickly. Not to mention the fact that you are unlikely to be satisfied with the juice of just one piece of fruit. In fact, manufacturers proudly shout about the amount of fruit that they have crammed into one bottle of juice. OK, perhaps that provides a few more vitamins (though sitting on a supermarket shelf is likely to degrade them) – but squeezing half a fruit bowl’s worth into one serving delivers a shedload more sugar, too.
“So, you will be more full, and take in less sugar if you have an apple and a glass of water than straight apple juice.”
Action on Sugar has called for manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar they add to their products, and for the Government to withdraw its advice that a small glass of unsweetened fruit juice can count towards fruit-and-vegetable intake recommendations.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar, said to The Independent: “It is a complete scandal that these drinks are marketed to children and parents as if they are ‘healthy’; this has to stop.
“We need to stop Britain’s childhood obesity epidemic spiraling out of control.”
Public Health England’s chief nutritionist Alison Tedstone told the Mail Online that families needed to be more conscious of their sugar intake. But she did not back calls to rethink the inclusion of juice in the five-a-day guidelines.
Dr Tedstone said: “Fruit juice is a useful contribution towards our five a day, however, because the process of juicing releases sugars from the fruit we recommend that you try to limit your fruit juice to 150mls a day, including that from smoothies and only consume thee and other sugary drunks with meals to reduce the risk of tooth decay.”
Mr Rupert Allen, Lead Dietitian at The Lister Hospital, London explains that we should be putting more focus on eating fruit as opposed to drinking the juice of it.
He explains: “Fresh fruit is generally more beneficial as the sugar is contained within the fruit structure, and is slower to be absorbed. Also fresh fruit will contain lots of fibre, which has many health benefits. Fruit will also fill you up more than fruit juice which may reduce the tendency to snack on other high sugar / high fat foods.
“Fruit juice made at home is likely to be better for you, as it will contain plenty of pulp and flesh and therefore will be higher in fibre. You can also guarantee what and how much fruit is in the drink and therefore be assured there is no added sugar.”