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Fruit juices 'just as bad for your health as fizzy drinks', new study finds

US researchers compared 100% fruit juices with beverages such as coca cola and lemonade. Credit: PA

Drinking fruit juices could increase your risk of an early death just as much as drinking coca-cola and lemonade, new research suggests.

A US study has found very little difference from choosing 100% fruit juices over other drinks with artificial or added sugar.

Those who drank a daily 350ml glass of juice had a 24% greater chance of dying during the study, compared to an 11% increase among those drinking any daily sugary soft drink.

Drinking 100% fruit juices can be just as bad for you as drinking sugary fizzy drinks. Credit: PA

The new research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), analysed data from 13,440 people.

Their intake of sugary drinks and 100% fruit juices was recorded via a questionnaire on how often they consumed the drinks.

During an average follow-up of six years, there were 1,000 deaths from any cause and 168 deaths from coronary heart disease.

Typically, people in the study got 8.4% of their calorie intake each day from sugar-sweetened drinks and 4% from 100% fruit juice.

After factors such as obesity were taken into account, those with the highest intake had an 11% increased risk of dying from any cause for every extra 12oz of sugar-sweetened drink consumed, and a 24% increased risk for every extra 12oz of fruit juice consumed.

Those who drank a daily 350ml glass of juice had a 24% greater chance of dying during the study. Credit: PA

The researchers, including from Emory University in Atlanta and Cornell University in New York, said: "These results suggest higher consumption of sugary beverages, including fruit juice, is associated with increased mortality.

"The nutrient content of 100% fruit juices and SSBs (sugar-sweetened beverages) is very similar.

"While 100% fruit juices contain some vitamins and phytonutrients that are missing from most SSBs, the predominant ingredients in both are sugar and water."

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Dr Gunter Kuhnle, associate professor in nutrition and health at the University of Reading, said: “This is a very important study, especially as fruit juices are often seen as a ‘healthy’ alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages, even though they often contain much more sugar (especially smoothies).

"Fruit juices can provide vitamins and even some fibre, but there is little health benefit beyond this: the amount of phytochemical found in juices is too low to have any further beneficial effect, and there is no beneficial health effect from so-called antioxidants.

"If the association is shown to be causal (which we don’t know yet), this would have a number of implications: first of all, it would suggest that it does not matter whether sugary drinks are lemonades or fruit juices.

"This is important, as fruit juices and smoothies are not commonly perceived as sugary drinks.

"Secondly, it would suggest purported health benefits of fruit juices are not sufficient to counteract their sugar content."