Natural sugars & health

4 Feb 2017

There has always been a sugar debate, which seems to continually be ongoing. Recently the World Health Organization has recommended taxing sugary drinks, linking them to obesity and diabetes and many now people believe that all sugars (including natural sugar found in fruit juice) are a key reason for the obesity and diabetes epidemics.

In response to the growing concern about the likely scenario that soda drinks are adding to rising obesity levels and diabetes in Europe, France has recently banned unlimited soda drink refills and here in the UK a soft drinks tax will be introduced next year. In the States, however, a plan to ban ‘super sized’ sugary drinks in New York, was blocked by a court in 2013.

All added sugars, whether as an ingredient or added by consumers at the table are accepted to be a serious health risk. Sweetened drinks such as soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks account for nearly half of the total added sugars consumed. Unfortunately, these drinks contain no nutritional value.

On the other hand, 100% fruit juices include bioactive compounds and nutrients that sodas do not contain. For example, citrus juices such as orange and grapefruit juices provide vitamin C, potassium and fibre, when they include pulp. In addition, fortified juices become sources of nutrients missing from many diets, such as calcium.

Evidence behind the correlation between fruit juice intake and instances of obesity and diabetes is mixed. Diets with more whole fruits and less fruit juice may reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes, yet a 2014 meta-analysis showed that fruit juice may have no overall effect on fasting glucose and insulin concentrations.

Studies also show that children and adults who drink 100% fruit juice are more likely to meet daily requirements for vitamins A and C, folate, magnesium and potassium. Whole fruit is preferable to fruit juice, because the fibrous content takes longer to digest, thereby promotes a feeling of fullness.

Whole fruit also slows down digestion and reduces blood sugar spikes commonly seen with fruit juices and there are many studies that show people who eat the most fruits and veggies are less likely to be overweight, smoke less, exercise more, don’t drink alcohol to excess, eat more whole grains and less meat and added sugar.

To lower sugar and increase fibre in fruit juice we must blend whole fruit. The resulting juice has the same amount of fibre as the whole fruit and blending fruit with whole vegetables, whole grains or protein can reduce sugar concentration and slow absorption to levels similar; to eating whole fruit.

Finally, there are benefits to fruit juice and fruit, but fruit is a better alternative to fruit juice. Perhaps there needs to be more education around our understanding of sugar and which foods containing sugar are allowed and of benefit.

2 Responses to “Natural sugars & health”

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  1. Brad 04. Feb, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    This has been an interesting subject in the news for a while now. I think we all know that processed sugars are universally bad for us; bad for your teeth and general health and can contribute to obesity.

    The sugars in fresh juice debate is more recent. Not so long ago I remember seeing on a fruit juice that it contributed to one of our 5 a day fruit and vegetables, now there is concern that the natural sugar content is just as bad as processed sugar.

    I subscribe to a precautionary approach and have cut down on fresh juices and dilute then with about one third water when I do have them. I see no reason to miss out on the vitamins like you say and also the fibre too, but I am conscious of the possible sugar overload as well.

    • Ilana 04. Feb, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

      Thanks. Yes, I agree with you. And there is so much scaremongering out there about sugar, so it becomes difficult to know what to believe.

      I think though that with Nutrition it’s important to find a balance and moderate what we eat and drink. I think the problem we have is that it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. We’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t

      We need to make sensible choices and moderate what we do eat, but there are benefits to drinking fruit juice and eating fruit.

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