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Drinking 100% fruit juice linked to weight gain in kids; doctor suggests alternatives

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(NEW YORK) — A new meta-analysis of more than a dozen studies found that drinking 100% fruit juice is linked to weight gain in children.

ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Darien Sutton joined ABC News’ Good Morning America to explain the key findings from the new study, published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, and shared some helpful insights for parents and caregivers to reduce their kids’ sugar consumption.

“What they found is just one glass of that 100% juice is associated with an increase in weight gain and increase in BMI (body mass index),” Sutton said. “This is important because more than almost 15 million children live with childhood obesity in this country and that’s correlated to other types of diseases, such as metabolic disease [and] liver disease, aside from obesity-related cancers.”

“It’s about controlling these habits now so we can have a better future,” Sutton added.

How much sugar is hiding in 100% fruit juice?

Juice labels may state “no added sugar,” but Dr. Sutton explained that because in 100% fruit juice, “there’s already enough sugar in it.”

“Orange juice has 4.5 teaspoons of sugar and one gram of fiber, as opposed to a whole orange which has three teaspoons of sugar and three grams of fiber,” he said, illustrating that the whole fruit would be a more nutritious choice than juice.

A cup of apple juice, Dr. Sutton further said, contains six teaspoons of sugar and zero grams of fiber, whereas a whole apple has three grams of fiber.

“The reason it’s important to address the fiber is because that helps children stay full,” Dr. Sutton explained. “As opposed to juices, fruits also break down more slowly in the body that leads to less spikes in your blood glucose, that leads to less spikes in your insulin. And that eventually will lead to, if you don’t treat it, insulin sensitivity which is the basis of diabetes.”

Healthy swap and alternatives to fruit juice

While it may be hard to entirely eliminate fruit juices from a child’s diet, Dr. Sutton suggests getting creative with water to reduce their intake.

For example, you can use sliced fruits — like strawberries, oranges and mangoes, for example — to provide some sweetness to water. You can also freeze sliced fruits to use as ice cubes, and add them to water or sparkling water to make it more flavorful.

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