Juiced or Whole? Discover the Risks of Drinking Fruit Juice

Living with type 2 diabetes can mean making many dietary changes, such as cutting back on sweet fruit juices.

Is fruit juice really as unhealthy as it seems? Or are the benefits of fruit juice the same as those you obtain from eating whole fruits?

The Benefits of Whole Fruits

Recently it seems that researchers are finding more and more health benefits in fruits like blueberries. However, there are some precautions that diabetics should take when trying out the latest fruit trend. According to a recent study by Harvard University, eating whole fruits can help lower the risk of diabetes, but drinking juice can actually raise the risk of developing the condition.

The study published in the British Medical Journal showed that eating certain fruits, especially blueberries, seemed to cut a person's risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 26 percent in a survey of more than 180,000 subjects, conducted for over two and a half decades. The participants of the study were asked about their consumption of grapes or raisins, prunes, bananas, cantaloupes, apples or pears, oranges, grapefruits, blueberries, strawberries, peaches and plums.

Out of all the fruits, blueberries had the strongest effect on reducing diabetes risk in participants. Other foods that showed some strong results were grapes and apples. The benefits were significant, especially when three or more servings a week were eaten. Prunes, pears, bananas and grapefruit also helped lower diabetes risk, while the other fruits did not have a significant effect. What made the difference in these fruits is something called polyphenols. This group of plant-based chemical compounds, which are all powerful antioxidants, help the body to process glucose. Blueberries, grapes and apples are all rich in polyphenols. These findings are particularly important for those with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes who are trying to find new tools for diabetes management.

Why You Should Avoid Juices

Qi Sun, co-author of the study and assistant professor of nutrition at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health, points out that there is caveat to the benefits found in this study. Surprisingly, Sun and his colleagues found that drinking fruit juice did not provide the same benefits as eating whole fruits. Drinking apple, orange and grapefruit juice not only failed to deliver the same benefits as whole fruit, but even seemed to raise the risk of diabetes. People who were surveyed and drank at least one serving a day of juice had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who did not.

Sun points outs that a possible reason for this could be that “during juicing processes, some phytochemicals and dietary fiber are lost.” He also points out that because fluids are more rapidly absorbed than solids, drinking juice brings on a “more rapid and more dramatic glucose and insulin response” than eating whole fruits.

Furthermore, Sun suggests that there are questions that still need to be answered. The surveys did not specifically ask whether the juice people were consuming was pasteurized or sweetened, although most store-bought juices are. Sun states that it is difficult to collect this kind of specific information in a study of such magnitude and adds that many people are just not aware of how much sugar is added to the juices they drink.

Sun affirms, however, that the data still point to that fact that fruit juices with added sugars can increase the risk of diabetes, and that people should look to eat whole fruits and avoid processed juices. Another good alternative to processed fruit juices are low-sodium veggie juices, which are much lower in calories and carbohydrates. It is safer to avoid juices when there is so much uncertainty surrounding their sugar content.

Source: NationalGeographic.com

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