By Hannah Schenker
The American Academy of Pediatrics has published a new report advising that infants under the age of 1 should not be given fruit juice at all. This is a change to the earlier guideline of no juice under 6 months of age – only breastmilk. The exception would be for children who require it for medical reasons, such as treatment for constipation.
Rather, children should be encouraged to eat whole fruit instead, which contains proteins and fibres that help the body absorb the right nutrients from the fruit. The high sugar content of fruit juice can lead to increased intake of calories through this easy-to-drink and supposedly healthy drink. Fruit juice is also lacking in the protein and fibres of whole fruit, which can “predispose to inappropriate weight gain (too much or too little)”.
Reliance on fruit juice instead of whole fruit to provide the recommended daily intake of fruit does not promote eating behaviors associated with the consumption of whole fruit.
“Fruit juice offers no nutritional advantage over whole fruit. A disadvantage of fruit juice is that it lacks the fiber of whole fruit. Kilocalorie for kilocalorie, fruit juice can be consumed more quickly than whole fruit. Reliance on fruit juice instead of whole fruit to provide the recommended daily intake of fruit does not promote eating behaviors associated with the consumption of whole fruit.”
They add that even when children are introduced to fruit juice, it should be given in a cup, for the sake of their teeth:
“Prolonged exposure of the teeth to the sugars in juice is a major contributing factor to dental caries. Recommendations from the AAP and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry state that juice should be offered to toddlers in a cup, not a bottle, and that infants not be put to bed with a bottle in their mouth.47,48 The practice of allowing children to carry a bottle, easily transportable covered cup, open cup, or box of juice around throughout the day leads to excessive exposure of the teeth to carbohydrate, which promotes the development of dental caries.49“
The new guidelines suggest the intake of juice should be limited to 4 ounces per day for children between 1 and 3 years of age. That is about half a cup. For children aged between 4 and 6 years of age, the limit is 4-6 ounces.