America’s top paediatricians are advising parents to stop giving fruit juice to children in the first year of life, saying the drink is not as healthful as many parents think.
In the past, the American Academy of Paediatrics had advised parents to avoid 100% fruit juice for babies younger than six months. According to a report in the New York Times, the group toughened its stance against juice, recommending that the drink be banned entirely from a baby’s diet during the first year. The concern is that juice offers no nutritional benefits early in life, and can take the place of what babies really need: breast milk or formula and their protein, fat and minerals like calcium, the group said.
This is the first time the paediatricians’ group has updated its guidelines on fruit juice since 2001.
The new recommendations may surprise parents who thought 100% fruit juice was healthy for babies, or nutritionally equivalent to fruit itself. In terms of sugar and calories, store-bought juice is similar to soda.
But whole fruit typically has more fibre than fruit juice and is less likely to cause dental decay, said Dr. Steven Abrams, a lead author of the new report and the chairman of paediatrics at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Abrams said, “We want kids to learn how to eat fresh foods. If you assume fruit juice is equal to fruit, then you’re not getting that message.”
Another concern is that juice can be a gateway drink of sorts. Dr. Elsie M. Taveras, chief of the division of general paediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston added, “We have studies that show infants who drink more juice in that early life period are more likely to go on to drink soda and sugar-containing beverages.”