Thursday, July 31, 2008

Study: Drinking Fruit Juice Worse Than Sugary Soda For Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Dr. Julie Palmer says don't get fooled into drinking OJ

What could be healthier for you than a icy cold glass of orange juice, right? What could be more Americana and good for you than that?! I mean it comes from freshly-squeezed oranges which are grown on trees, so it HAS to be better for you than sugary soda, doesn't it? Wellllllll, not exactly as a new study published in a major medical journal from researchers out of Boston University revealed this week.

Lead researcher Dr. Julie Palmer, a senior epidemiologist from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, looked at the connection between both fruit juice and sugary soda to Type 2 diabetes as part of the enlightening and still-ongoing prospective Black Women's Health Study featuring a whopping 59,000 African-American women from across the United States. Because Type 2 diabetes has hit the black female population especially hard increasing exponentially in the past few years (double that of white women), Dr. Palmer wanted to find out specifically why and what she discovered is gonna shock a whole lotta people.

Initial questionnaires went sent out to the study participants in 1995 to obtain baseline information on height, weight, demographic characteristics, medical history, usual diet and other factors. Then follow-up questionnaires soliciting information with updates on various health conditions, lifestyle changes, and diet among other things have been sent out every two years ever since to see if there are any marked changes in the occurrence of Type 2 diabetes or other such diseases.

In all, 2,713 of the study participants (about 4.5 percent) developed Type 2 diabetes in the first ten years since the study began that paralleled with those women who increased their consumption of both sugary sodas and fruit drinks. According to the study, women who drank 2+ sodas per day experienced a 24 percent increase in getting Type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than one soft drink in a month.

Interestingly, Dr. Palmer also found a curious connection between fruit juice and Type 2 diabetes as well. Those women in the study who drank 2+ servings of this "healthy" drink alternative to sugary soda, primarily at breakfast time, saw a 31 percent increase in diabetes risk compared to those who had less than one glass of fruit juice each month.


I can remember growing up how much I LOVED drinking Sunny Delight orange juice. And my mom faithfully bought it for me, my brother Kevin, and sister Beverly thinking it was a "healthy" option since it was derived from fruit. Surely this had to be better than all that soda we would be drinking instead, right? Boy, we couldn't have been more wrong if we tried--and we have to blame it partially on the aggressive marketing of the juice lobby led by groups like the Juice Products Association who are in full spin-mode right now promoting juice as playing "an important role in a healthy diet." NOT!

Some will argue that it's fruit and that alone should make it healthy. While I sincerely believe both whole fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet (including a low-carb one, by the way!), it's a blatant copout to say they're all good for you when clearly they are not. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, and honeydew are excellent choices for fruit in the latter stages of your low-carb life management plan. But juicing even any of these fruits simply concentrates the sugar that much more and you just don't need it. Can you imagine all the sugar you'd be adding to your body with apple, pineapple, or orange juice? EEEEEEK! No thanks! I don't need to get Type 2 diabetes.

The take-home message from this study is that fruit juice is equal if not MORE harmful to your risk for Type 2 diabetes as sugary soda is and should be avoided for the same reasons. Most of the people reading this at my blog are saying to themselves, "well duh?!" But ask just about anyone you know which of the two is healthier between fruit juice and sugary soda and you're gonna have a virtually unanimous choice for the fruit juice. My answer would be NEITHER and I haven't drank either one since I started livin' la vida low-carb in January 2004. And I have NO intentions of EVER doing so again.

Dr. Palmer said fruit drinks were favored over sugary soda by the participants in the study and that fruit drink consumption in the United States has doubled since the late 1970s. This along with the strong marketing of fruit juice as "healthy" beginning in the 1980s and still to this day has led us to higher and higher rates of Type 2 diabetes, Dr. Palmer noted.

"The public should be made aware that these drinks are not a healthy alternative to soft drinks with regard to risk of type 2 diabetes," she exclaimed.

This study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and was published in the July 28, 2008 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

You can e-mail Dr. Julie Palmer about her study at

See what some of my fellow low-carbers had to say about this study on fruit juice:

- Dr. Jonny Bowden
- Connie Bennett
- Discussion at my forum
- Carol Bardelli
- Low-Carb Friends
- Sean Kelley

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you even read this study? There is a big difference between fruit juice and a sugar-sweetened fruit drink. From the study:

"Women who consumed 2 or more soft drinks per day had a 24% increase in incidence relative to women who drank less than 1 soft drink per month. A similar association was observed for sweetened fruit drinks, with a 31% increase observed for 2 or more drinks per day relative to less than 1 drink per month. Consumption of orange and grapefruit juice and of diet soft drinks was not associated with diabetes risk. "

The title of your blog post using "fruit juice" instead of "fruit drink" is inaccurate and misleading.

8/01/2008 12:34 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

You'll notice I cited Sunny D in my post--a fruit drink that is marketed as healthy. I hear your point, but I must ask what the difference really is.

8/01/2008 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the study, consumption of pure fruit juice was not linked to a higher rate of diabetes. Consumption of sugar-sweetened fruit drinks was linked. From this, it would seem very likely that the problem is the added sugar, and nothing to do with fruit juice per se.

The study could have been summed up as "sugar increases the risk of diabetes", which is hardly groundbreaking.

8/01/2008 2:17 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

It may not be "groundbreaking" to people like you and me, Matt. But how many people drink Sunny D and other "fruit drinks" assuming they are healthy? Still far too many.

8/01/2008 2:33 PM  
Blogger Tom Bunnell said...

A glass of Orange Juice and a glass of Apple Juice and a glass of Pop and a glass of Kool-Aid and a glass of Milk are all the same thing! -- Almost pure carbohydrates! -- Shocking news when first heard and not easy to swallow and hardly believed, but factually the truth!

8/01/2008 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Real life anecdote: My mother, sister, and I lived with my grandparents until I was 8 years old, when my mother remarried. Food at Grandma's house was mostly natural and low-sugar, although not low-carb by any stretch. Still, we drank real orange juice, ate low-sugar cereals for breakfast (and eggs), and generally had soup and sandwiches for lunch, meat and vegetables for dinner. Occasionally we had dessert, but often just had fruit. When my mother remarried, she finally had the chance to do things "her way" and succumbed to the processed foods that were a part of the modern 1960s' home. Now my sister and I ate sugared cereal. The real juice was replaced with Hi-C. We started eating Wonder Bread. And of course my mother was intent on impressing her new husband with her baking abilities, so we had cakes and pies every night. Both she and my dad gained 30+ pounds over the winter, and so did I! And of course, my pediatrician suggested that I just "push myself away from the table." I'm reminded of what Jonny Bowden had to say about how your body is affected differently by 100 calories of potato chips or 100 calories of broccoli. Not that I'd consider consuming a cup of juice today in any event, but I think for a lot of people that don't seem to have blood sugar issues (yet), it boils down to what kind of juice they're drinking and how much. I do wish, though, that people would stop equating the carbohydrates in milk with those in apple and orange juice. Real milk has protein and fat, and half the carbohydrates of a glass of real orange juice. If kids drank milk instead of apple juice, we wouldn't have such fat kids, or kids who have poor bone structure and need orthodontia, or young adults with osteoporosis. The trend away from consuming fat (milk) to consuming the much more "healthy" apple juice has proven to be a bust to children's health.

8/01/2008 8:18 PM  
Blogger JBERG said...

I completely agree with Matt on this one. Most juice you find in the store in nothing but sugar water!

8/01/2008 11:16 PM  
Blogger Methuselah said...

Matt's point is an good one - the media is forever conflating 'sugar' with 'sugars'. A typical example of this was seen in a recent documentary on Channel 4 in the UK, in which the amount of 'sugars' in a smoothie was described as '12 teaspoons of sugar'. It was not made clear whether this was refined sugar that had been added, or the naturally ocurring sugar - yet this is important, as refined sugar does deserve special vilification: Why (Refined) Sugar is Bad: Some References.

Nevertheless, even in its unadulterated form, fruit juice must surely have been something we did not consume until very recently in our evolution - it would simply not have ocurred naturally. So although this study has not shown it to affect the chances of getting diabetes, I for one will continue to eat fruit in its normal form because it just feels right.

8/03/2008 12:04 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying don't eat fruit. Certain fruits like berries and melons are an excellent food to eat on a low-carb lifestyle. But juicing it concentrates the sugar content and makes it worse for you than eating it whole. :)

8/03/2008 12:33 PM  
Blogger Methuselah said...

Hey Jimmmy - don't worry, I know you have nothing against fruit ;-) What I meant to say was that although I agree with Matt's point about distinguishing between sweetened fruit juice and unadulterated fruit juice, nevertheless I don't regard either of them as being something we should consume. For me it's good old fresh fruit every time. Ever tried 'dragon fruit'? It's a subtle flavour, which makes me suspect it's probably insulin friendly...

Pay Now Live Later

8/04/2008 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol, I can't believe you thought SunnyD was juice. It doesn't even taste like juice! It tastes awful, actual orange juice tastes really good.
I also can't believe you think it's ok to drink TOXIC diet sodas and sugar free things with toxic artificial sweeteners like splenda...

Why not eat a natural diet without all those disgusting supplements and artificial sweeteners and junk? Too many addictions.
Low carb, high fat, natural diet is the way to go. Not a diet filled with Atkins shakes, diet sodas, and whatever other toxic junk you can use to satisfy your addictions.

9/23/2008 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best "fruit" juice out there for low carbers is Ocean Spray diet Crangrape, Cranberry and Grape sweetened with Splenda. O carbs, 0 everything and good for you too.

2/27/2009 12:38 AM  

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