Friday, August 23, 2019

I'm Still Drinking Juice Despite the Scary Cancer Headlines. Here's Why:

Did you see this recent headline? “Sugary drinks, including 100% fruit juices, may raise cancer risk”. I’ve read the study and I’m still drinking my orange juice every morning. Why? Because this is more of the same: weak study design with weak statistical outcomes that should drive any decent nutrition scientist to an early grave.

Here’s why this latest study doesn't change my mind about drinking juice:
  •          It’s an Observational Study: Think of these types of studies as circumstantial evidence. In some areas of science, like climate change, this type of data is more useful and meaningful. But in the area of nutrition, they're bordering on useless particularly when they study a single food or nutrient. Observational studies cannot show cause and effect. The only thing they can show is that there may be some sort of relationship between two things - like juice and cancer.
  •       It's Self-Reported Data: How well do you remember what you ate yesterday? Or last month?
  •        An 18% increased risk is weak. While it may sound like a lot, it’s not. To give you some perspective, smoking 25 cigarettes a day increases the risk of lung cancer by 900%. That’s a strong relative risk. Not 18%. And this weak 18% would only hold true if the juice was the actual cause – which this study cannot show.

This does not mean you should load up on sugary sodas – or even 100% fruit juice. While sugary sodas and 100% fruit juice have the same calories and sugar by the ounce, they are not nutritional equals. Sodas are empty calories. 100% fruit juices have many nutrients depending on which ones you’re drinking. Vitamin C, folate, potassium are just a few of the nutrients that you might find in juices. 

·        I like to mix juice with mineral water to make a healthy spritzy drink. You’ll get more fiber when you eat whole fruits. Juice should not be your main source of fruit – but it still counts. Don’t quench your thirst with juice – but a morning glass of O.J. is a great way to start the day if you like it.

·         Look for 100% fruit juice. You’ll need to read the label carefully because they can be deceiving. Always look at the “Nutrition Facts” section of the label to find out just how much actual fruit juice is in it. Some juices are lower in their percentage of juice but they're actually lower in calories and sugar because they're diluting the juice and sweetening it with low calorie sweeteners. These are good choices particularly for cranberry juice - which can be too tart to drink straight up! The bottom line is to read labels and compare calories and sugars.

Beth Kitchin PhD RDN
Assistant Professor Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham 

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