Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated, “sugar in fruit juice unhealthy”. They came out with new guidelines regarding fruit juice consumption for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school children. In it they warned that before the age of 1 year parents should not allow their children to consume fruit juice, because the sugar load is too high calorie wise. The other problem is that the initial teeth are very susceptible to tooth decay with the added sugar. CNN has published a summary article about this as well.
Generally speaking, the Academy recommends that some fruit juice may be healthy, but only above the age of 1 year. Specifically they recommend these limits for growing children.
New guidelines about fruit juice in children
Below 1 year: no fruit juice. This is a departure from the prior recommendation in 2001 where physicians allowed fruit juice
for infants of 6 months onwards.
1 to 3 years: Maximum daily fruit juice allowance is 4 oz. a day (1/2 cup). Serve the juice in a cup. Do not allow juice from a bottle or a box.If children sip juice all day long, their dental health will suffer.
4 to 6 years: Limit fruit juice to 4 to 6 oz. a day (1/2 to ¾ cup).
7 to 18 years: Fruit juice consumption should not exceed 8 oz. of juice per day (1 cup).
General comments about the guidelines
The Academy also reiterated that eating fruit is important for children as fruit contains the natural sugar bound to fiber. Also vitamin and minerals are present in full concentration. The processing of fruit to get fruit juice distorts the natural composition of fruit. Additional sugar is often added as a preservative, which results in a sugar-loaded drink instead of a natural product.
Sometimes a physician will recommend specific juices to combat conditions like constipation. Prune juice and apple juice are useful in that situation. Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta pediatrician stated that parents should look for 100% fruit juice with calcium and vitamin D supplementation. This is good for kids with dairy intolerance or children who do not like milk. Dr. Shy said, that she tries to encourage parents to think about juice as a sweet drink, just as they would look at soda.
In the context of childhood obesity and childhood dental decay the American Academy of Pediatrics took a stand. You could sum it up: “Sugar in fruit juice unhealthy”. Essentially, what they said is that infants up to 1 year should have breast milk or formula, but no fruit juice at all. From 1 year on there could be an age-related increase of daily fruit juice consumption from ½ cup (4oz.) to 1 cup (8 oz.) up to age 18 years. Apart from fruit juice they suggest for children to eat fresh fruit, which has more nutrients than juice and has a lot of fibre, which the body needs. One health professional pointed out that at a very young age below 1 year intake of added sugar should be kept extremely low. This way the children learn early on to stay away from sugar. If parents follow these guidelines childhood obesity would decrease and could become a thing of the past.