A closer look at 100% fruit juice

The Westlake | Bay Village Observer is excited to introduce a brand-new column, The Medical Insider. Diana Pi is a Westlake resident and board-certified general internist in practice for over 24 years. Her column will share important information on personal health from an insider's perspective – mixed with the lighter side of life.

Last month, on World Obesity Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) went ape over sugary drinks and proposed adding a 20 percent tax on soda, sports drinks and – here’s an eye popper – fruit juice.

But isn’t fruit juice healthy? Loaded with vitamin C and such?

At one time, the answer was a life-and-death yes. Back when the shape of Earth, round or flat, was still a scientific curiosity. Back when sunbeat seafarers, embarking on months-long journeys, subsisted on sea biscuits, salted meat and a mid-day ration of rum – and died in droves from scurvy, a severe form of vitamin C deficiency. 

But now? With easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables – a small head of cabbage supplies more than enough daily vitamin C for a family of four – you have to concoct a seriously weird diet to become deficient.

Yet the WHO was right about the mounting problems of regular juice consumption.

First, calories. Ounce for ounce, fruit juice contains as many calories as soda. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 140 calories (38 grams of sugar); a 12-ounce bottle of Minute Maid 100% Orange Juice contains 170 calories (36 grams of sugar). And whether the sugar is natural or added, fructose or sucrose, GMO or non-GMO doesn’t matter. Sugar is sugar is sugar. It’s empty calories and bad for your teeth. In addition to sugar, orange juice and lemonade are acidic which further erode tooth enamel and promote decay.

What’s more: juicing filters out pulp, which contains fiber – one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against diabetes and obesity. Among its numerous health benefits, fiber modulates blood sugar and satiates hunger when fruit juice can’t.

I’ve simplified my diet into two basic food groups.

The first group is what makes my cardiology colleagues grin from ear to ear. Foods that are rich in good cholesterol, high in fiber and antioxidants, low in salt and calories – kale, tofu, cod liver oil, Brussels sprouts, cardboard boxes – foods that make you question the whole point of longevity.

The second food group makes me grin from ear to ear – corn dogs, fried chicken (just the skin), salt-and-vinegar potato chips, any ice cream – the foods of birthday parties, county fairs and the end of a long day. Just because they’re bad for me doesn’t mean I can’t have the occasional lime cheesecake or ice-cold orange juice. The key is occasional. Not regular, not every day.

Here’s the math. A daily cup of juice translates to 41,367 kilocalories in a year (12 pounds of excess weight). I’d need to walk from Cleveland to Niagara Falls, New York, and back (about 413 miles) to burn it off.

It’s just not worth it.

Not ready to donate your juicer? Then try this blue-ribbon cardiology recipe: Drink the pulp, compost the juice.

Diana Pi

I am a board-certified general internist in practice for over 24 years. I’m hoping to share important information on personal health—mixed with the lighter side of life.

Read More on The Medical Insider
Volume 8, Issue 21, Posted 10:07 AM, 11.01.2016