Some experts believe 100 percent fruit juice should be included in dietary policies, such as taxes on sugary drinks. However, a new study from the University of Washington School of Public Health and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found that fruit juice in moderation does not cause high blood pressure or diabetes in adults.
Led by Brandon Auerbach, who conducted the study as a graduate student in the School's Department of Epidemiology, researchers pooled data from nearly 114,000 women in the United States, ages 50 – 79, who responded to food frequency questionnaires.
The study, published online Sept. 6 in the journal Preventive Medicine, found that women who consumed one serving (eight ounces) of 100 percent fruit juice a day had no increased risk for high blood pressure or diabetes.
“This data suggests that 100 percent fruit juice, especially citrus juice, may be part of a healthy diet if it is consumed in moderation,” says Auerbach, now an internal medicine specialist at Harborview Medical Center and Virginia Mason Medical Center. “That said, whole fruit instead of 100 percent fruit juice is still the all-around best choice, since whole fruit has more fiber and less sugar.”
Study participants were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, a national health study designed to address the most frequent causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch) is home to the initiative’s coordinating hub.
Questionnaires asked participants about their consumption, specifically of orange and grapefruit juice, and of all other 100 percent fruit juice types. Participants indicated how often they drank citrus and non-citrus juice and their usual serving sizes. Every 6 – 12 months until the conclusion of the study, participants reported on any new treatment of high blood pressure or diabetes.
About 12 percent of participants reported that they did not consume any 100 percent fruit juice. Compared to this group, researchers found no evidence that consumption of eight ounces of 100 percent fruit juice was associated with high blood pressure or diabetes. Women who consumed one serving a day tended to be older and African-American, and have a normal body mass index, higher educational attainment and higher diet-quality scores.
“Given stronger associations of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption with cardiometabolic diseases, our results do not support treating 100 percent fruit juice like sugar-sweetened beverages in dietary policies,” the researchers wrote.
When researchers compared drinking 24 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice to drinking 4 ounces or less, they found an increase in high blood pressure linked to non-citrus fruit juices.
Study co-authors include UW’s Alyson Littman, who is based at Veterans Affairs (VA) Puget Sound Health Care System; Bessie Young Mielcarek, also from the VA; Marian Neuhouser, full member of Fred Hutch’s Cancer Prevention Program; and James Krieger, executive director of Healthy Food America. Lesley Tinker and Mr. Joseph Larson, from Fred Hutch, also collaborated on the project.