Parents should avoid offering fruit juice to infants under the age of 1 year, unless advised by a doctor, as it provides “no nutritional benefit” and may harm their health. This is the according to new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Previous guidelines on fruit juice consumption from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – published in 2001 – recommended that fruit juice should not be given to infants under the age of 6 months.
Sixteen years later, the AAP have extended this time frame, based on a wealth of evidence that suggests that fruit juice may do more harm than good in the first 12 months of life.
The new policy statement was recently published in the journal Pediatrics.
When you see a bottle stating that the contents are “100 percent fruit juice,” you might assume that the beverage is a healthful alternative to whole fruits, but this is not the case.
While some fruit juices are naturally high in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium, they are also high in sugar and low in other important nutrients, such as fiber. In fact, a 2016 study found that some fruit juices contain as much as 2 teaspoons of sugar in a 100-milliliter serving.
As such, concerns have been raised about the health effects of fruit juice intake among children. One study published in 2015 cited fruit juice as one of the “biggest culprits” for dental erosion, and other research has linked fruit juice intake to childhood obesity.
The new AAP policy statement reflects these concerns by presenting a number of recommendations to limit children’s fruit juice consumption.
Based on the evidence to date, the AAP conclude that “fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits for infants younger than 1 year,” and, therefore, it should not be offered to them “unless clinically indicated.”
“Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories,” says statement co-author Dr. Melvin B. Heyman, an AAP fellow. “Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under 1.”
For toddlers aged 1 to 3 years, the AAP recommend consuming no more than 4 ounces of fruit juice daily, while children aged between 4 and 6 years should consume no more than 4 to 6 ounces per day.
Fruit juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces per day for children and adolescents aged 7 to 18 years, say the AAP.
Additionally, the guidelines state that toddlers should not be given fruit juice in bottles or “sippy cups” that allow them to drink freely throughout the day. These drinking apparatuses fuel excessive tooth exposure to the juice, which can lead to tooth decay.
What is more, the AAP “strongly discourage” the consumption of unpasteurized juice products for children of all ages, and grapefruit juice should be avoided for children taking any medications that are metabolized by the enzyme CYP3A4, due to its potentially harmful interactions.
Finally, the AAP state that children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits, and they should be educated about the benefits of whole fruit consumption over fruit juice.
“We know that excessive fruit juice can lead to excessive weight gain and tooth decay,” says statement co-author Dr. Steven A. Abrams, also a fellow of the AAP. “Pediatricians have a lot of information to share with families on how to provide the proper balance of fresh fruit within their child’s diet.”