Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

The Role of Fruit Juice in the Diets of Children: Helpful, Harmful, or Somewhere in Between?

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

The Role of Fruit Juice in the Diets of Children: Helpful, Harmful, or Somewhere in Between?

Article excerpt

SCHOLARSHIP

ABSTRACT

Fruit juice is a popular addition to the diets of infants and children. It is marketed as healthful, natural, and nutritious. Many health professionals agree with this image. Others do not, noting that excessive fruit juice consumption is associated with gastrointestinal discomfort, tooth decay, short stature, and obesity. This article presents "the great juice debate" by examining historical and current research regarding the contribution of fruit juice in childrens diets. The 2001 recommendations of American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, outlining the role of juice in children's diets, are presented as are guidelines for FCS professionals who work with parents.

These recommendations indicate that, when it comes to fruit juice, our children may be getting too much of a good thing.

INTRODUCTION

In May 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Nutrition issued detailed recommendations for the use of fruit juice in the diets of children (AAP Committee on Nutrition, 2001). These recommendations indicate that, when it comes to fruit juice, our children may be getting too much of a good thing. Similar to the AAP, many health professionals are rethinking the value of juice in the diets of young children (ages 1-3 in particular), arguing that parents should cut back considerably on the amount of juice they offer their children. Some question whether children need juice at all. In contrast, others value the contribution that juice makes to a child's diet, citing the importance of juice consumption in achieving the five servings of fruits and vegetables per day recommended to reduce risk of chronic disease and in meeting a child's daily requirements for key vitamins and minerals (Clydesdale et al., 1994; Lifshitz, 1996).

Conflicting research findings-and opinions-make it difficult for parents and educators, alike, to decipher appropriate recommendations about just what role juice should play in a child's diet. When working with the public, it is critical that Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) professionals are familiar with the issues surrounding this topic so that they are prepared to offer appropriate guidance that enables parents to make wise decisions.

THE JUICE DEBATE: WHERE THE CONCERN STARTED

The AAP's Committee on Nutrition began their May 2001 paper by noting that, "historically, fruit juice was recommended by pediatricians as a source of vitamin C and an extra source of water for healthy infants and young children as their diets expanded to include solid foods .... Because juice tastes good, children readily accept it. Although juice consumption has some benefits, it also has potential detrimental effects ..... (AAP Committee on Nutrition, 2001, 1210)

Concerns about excessive fruit juice consumption in young children have exisisted since at least 1978, when the AAP and the American Academy of Pedodontics first issued a joint statement recommending that the use of juice from a bottle be discouraged (AAP and American Academy of Pedodontics, 1978). Early concerns about fruit juice and young children focused on dental caries and baby-bottle tooth decay, a trend that surfaced when parents put children to bed with bottles of juice.

In 1991, the controversy flared up again, this time the issue being malabsorption of nonabsorbable sugars present in some juices. The AAP Committee on Nutrition cautioned that gastrointestinal symptoms such as chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, or bloating could result from excessive use of fruit juice in the pediatric diet. These symptoms were attributed to sorbitol, a nonabsorbable and naturally occurring sugar alcohol, present primarily in pear and apple juices which, at the time, were popular with consumers.

Today, the "great fruit-juice debate" has moved beyond dental caries and malabsorption to include the overall effect that fruit juice consumption (and possible overconsumption) may have on the diet quality of children. …

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