Orange (Juice) Is the New Black (Tar)

Six professors of pediatrics have recently written two editorials describing the evil that is juice: “Seriously, Juice Is Not Healthy” and “People think juice is good for them. They’re wrong.”

First, let’s consider diabetes. Lots of papers about “food A causes B” are based on the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which have followed tens of thousands of men and women for decades while asking them tons of questions about their lifestyle and tracking their health outcomes. Analysis of those studies finds a 2% reduction (p ~ 0.002) in type 2 diabetes for every three servings of whole fruit per week and an 8% risk increase (p < 0.001) for every three servings of fruit juice per week.

Second, let’s consider weight loss. A cross-over trial (in which the same people are brought to the lab multiple times and given different treatments on different days) of 58 people found that eating an apple before lunch caused them to eat 15% fewer total calories (including the apple) but drinking apple juice caused no reduction in eating. They actually tried two kinds of apple juice: normal apple juice with no fiber and another apple juice with apple-derived fiber equal to that found in a whole apple. Neither juice provided the satiety benefit of the plain old apple.

For 100% pure fruit juice propaganda, listen to someone marketing a juice cleanse. Of course, if you abruptly remove nearly all foods from your diet you will lose some weight. That doesn’t make it healthy or in any way related to the juice. If you decided to consume nothing but ice cream you’d probably lose weight, if only because you’d get so sick of ice cream you’d end up consuming fewer calories. The frequent claim that juice cleanses will “detoxify” your body is so devoid of meaning or reason as to be non-falsifiable. The evidence is summed up nicely by a public health professor at Johns Hopkins, Scott Kahan, “I have never in my career seen a reputable scientific study showing that juicing and cleansing has any effect on weight loss or other positive outcomes.” The people hawking expensive juice cleanses will remove nothing from your body but your cash. I’m waiting for the day one of these brilliant marketers convinces people they should buy a subscription horse manure service.

These results should not be surprising. A 12-ounce can of Coke has 39 grams of carbohydrates (the kind in fruit!) whereas the same volume of orange juice has 35 grams of carbohydrates. Whether it’s hatefully centrifuged at high temperature by the Koch brothers as a long term ploy to make liberals overweight or lovingly cold pressed by Oprah Winfrey herself doesn’t change that it’s sugar water. Sugar is delicious, so if you want to drink it for fun go right ahead, but it won’t make you any healthier. Personally, I prefer sugar-free water with all-natural flavorings.




2 thoughts on “Orange (Juice) Is the New Black (Tar)

  1. Clever title! I read the study cited at the end of your second paragraph, and found this interesting and counter-intuitive:

    “In the secondary analysis examining the associations between fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes by glycemic index/glycemic load values of fruits, greater consumption of high glycemic load fruits was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but not moderate and low glycemic load fruits.”

    I know the takeaway is that we should eat a variety of fruits (which I’d already concluded from this thing on soylent:, but should we also limit/monitor our fructose intake? I keep seeing how omg bad sugar, including fructose, is for us. Might I request a post regarding sugar–its various forms and various health effects?


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