Researchers from Louisiana State University's Agricultural Center have determined that children who drink 100% orange juice have less weight gain per consumed calories, and significantly better overall nutrient levels and better diets in general. In a related study, the consumption of dried fruit also resulted in less weight gain.
While the results might not be surprising to some, the orange juice research contradicts notions that fructose is an unhealthy sugar, and that drinking 100% fruit juices are just as bad as drinking sodas and other drinks high in sugar content. This has been an argument made by some, claiming that fructose from fruit juices produces obesity and other negative health factors.
This notion is contradicted by research that studied 7,250 children between 2 years old and 18 years old from the National Health and Nutrition Examination 2003-2006 Survey. This was cross-referenced with diet quality indices such as the Healthy Eating Index of 2005 and MyPyramid data.
Of this total group of 7,250 children, 2,183 children drank 100% orange juice regularly, or 26% of the children. The average amount of orange juice consumed by each OJ consumer was a little over 10 ounces a day.
The research found that children who regularly drank orange juice consumed an average of 523 calories a day more than children who did not drink orange juice regularly. Yet surprisingly, there was no difference in the weight levels between the orange juice consumers and the non-orange juice consumers.
In other words, drinking orange juice regularly helps prevent weight gain among children.
Not so surprisingly, the researchers also found that children who drank orange juice regularly also had significantly higher nutrient levels of vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium than those children who did not drink orange juice regularly. The children who drank orange juice regularly also ate better in general than children who did not.
One eight ounce glass of 100% (non-fortified) orange juice contains 137% of the U.S. Daily value of vitamin C, 35% of the Daily Value of calcium, 18% of the Daily Value of thiamin, 14% of the Daily Value of potassium, 11% of the Daily Value of folate, 7% of the Daily Value of magnesium and 7% of the Daily Value of vitamin B6.
The study also reveals that it is not so much the number of calories, but the type of calories we eat. Calories from diets that contain healthy plant-based foods are better than calories from diets heavily laden with over-processed foods and sugary foods.
This conclusion was confirmed in a 2011 study that analyzed dried fruit consumption among 13,292 U.S. adults. The research found that those who eat more dried fruit have on average lower weight, lower obesity levels, and higher nutrient levels in vitamin A, vitamins C, vitamin K, calcium, phosphorus, fiber, magnesium and potassium than those who consumed less dried fruit.
Both of these studies illustrate that fructose, the primary sugar within fruit juices like orange juice and concentrated in dried fruits, is not unhealthy as supposed by some. The theory that fructose from fruits and fruit juices has negative consequences thoroughly ignores that these healthy foods contain not only fructose, but also a myriad of other healthy components, including pulp, pectin, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and other healthy nutrients.
This of course does not apply to high-fructose corn syrup - a highly refined form of fructose.
- O'Neil CE, Nicklas TA, Rampersaud GC, Fulgoni VL 3rd. One hundred percent orange juice consumption is associated with better diet quality, improved nutrient adequacy, and no increased risk for overweight/obesity in children. Nutr Res. 2011 Sep;31(9):673-82.
- Keast DR, O'Neil CE, Jones JM. Dried fruit consumption is associated with improved diet quality and reduced obesity in US adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Nutr Res. 2011 Jun;31(6):460-7.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21. NDB 09209. Accessed 10/21/2008.