It's not just soda: Drinking too much fruit juice (or any sugary drink) linked to premature death risk

Many sugar-sweetened beverages have little to no nutritional value and lots of calories, and their harmful health effects have been well-documented. Now, a s...

Posted: May 17, 2019 3:23 PM

Many sugar-sweetened beverages have little to no nutritional value and lots of calories, and their harmful health effects have been well-documented. Now, a study links drinking too many sugary beverages -- and even 100% natural fruit juices -- to an increased risk of early death.

Specifically, drinking an excessive amount of fruit juice could lead to an increased risk of premature death ranging from 9% to 42%, according to the study, published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Overall, the sugars found in orange juice, although naturally occurring, are pretty similar to the sugars added to soda and other sweetened beverages, the study suggests.

"Sugary beverages, whether soft drinks or fruit juices, should be limited," Jean A. Welsh, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta, wrote in an email.

Cardiovascular disease link

Seven US cities, including New York and most recently Philadelphia, have levied taxes on sweetened drinks with added sugar in an effort to reduce consumption. These laws often highlight how soda and other sugary beverages contribute to the obesity epidemic among kids and high rates of diabetes among adults.

The new study defined "sugary beverages" as both sugar-sweetened thirst-quenchers, like soda and fruit-flavored infusions, and 100% natural fruit juices that have no added sugar. So how does fruit juice stack up against soda?

"Previous research has shown that high consumption of sugars like those in soft drink and fruit juices is linked to several cardiovascular disease risk factors," Welsh explained. Obesity, diabetes and elevated triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) are among the risk factors linked to excessive sugar intake. "Few studies have been able to look at how this consumption might impact mortality risk," she said.

To address this issue, she and her colleagues repurposed data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study, which seeks to understand why more African-Americans die from strokes than other races and why people in the Southeast have more strokes than those in other areas of the United States.

Drawing from this multiethnic study, Welsh and her coauthors analyzed data from 13,440 adults 45 and older, nearly 60% men and almost 71% of them overweight or obese.

People who consumed 10% or more of their daily calories as sugary beverages had a 44% greater risk of dying due to coronary heart disease and a 14% greater risk of an early death from any cause compared with people who consumed less than 5% of their daily calories as sugary beverages, the study showed.

Each additional 12-ounce serving of fruit juice per day was associated with a 24% higher risk of death from any cause, and each additional 12-ounce serving of sugary beverages per day was associated with an 11% higher risk. A similar relationship between sugary beverages and death due to coronary heart disease was not found.

"In looking at our results for sugar-sweetened beverages and juices independently, we need to be clear that the risk presented is relative to that present in the lowest consumers of each," Welsh explained.

She was not surprised by the the findings. She and her co-authors said "a number of possible biological mechanisms" explain the elevated risk of death. For example, research suggests that sugary beverages increase insulin resistance, which is known to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, while fructose consumption may stimulate hormones that promote weight gain around the waist -- another cardiovascular disease risk factor.

Recommended amounts of fruit juice

This is one of the first studies to examine the relationship between sugary drinks, including 100% fruit juices, and early death, wrote Marta Guasch-Ferré, a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Dr. Frank B. Hu, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in an editorial published alongside the new study.

However, the study is limited in what it can tell us, noted Guasch-Ferré and Hu, who were not involved in the research. Because so few coronary heart disease-related deaths occurred, the analysis here is considered weak; more time and a higher number of participants would probably give a stronger signal either way. Also, each participant's sugary drink consumption was recorded at the start of the study only, based entirely on self-reporting, which is not considered reliable.

"Although fruit juices may not be as deleterious as sugar-sweetened beverages, their consumption should be moderated in children and adults, especially for individuals who wish to control their body weight," Guasch-Ferré and Hu wrote.

The recommendations for kids between 1 and 6 years old are to limit fruit juice consumption to 6 ounces per day, while children 7 years and older, teens and adults should limit fruit juice to 8 ounces per day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

"Further research is needed to examine the health risks and potential benefits of specific fruit juices," Guasch-Ferré and Hu said.

Welsh said we need to consider both fruit juices and sugar-sweetened beverages when we think about how much sugar we consume each day. Between the two, she tipped the scales in favor of fruit juice: "Given its vitamin and mineral content, fruit juice in small amounts may have a beneficial effect that isn't seen with sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 74992

Reported Deaths: 3044
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15963725
Lake7632275
Elkhart488385
Allen3937163
St. Joseph354682
Hamilton2803104
Vanderburgh199713
Hendricks1901108
Cass17969
Johnson1767118
Porter133839
Clark124447
Tippecanoe122111
Madison98765
LaPorte92130
Howard90565
Kosciusko86212
Bartholomew80147
Floyd79146
Marshall79022
Monroe75930
Delaware73852
Dubois70012
Noble68429
Boone68346
Hancock67038
Vigo66810
Jackson5885
Warrick58630
LaGrange55910
Shelby55827
Grant52830
Dearborn50828
Morgan48334
Clinton4403
Henry38520
Wayne37710
White37210
Montgomery35421
Lawrence35027
Harrison34123
Decatur33832
Putnam2908
Miami2742
Daviess27320
Scott26810
Greene25134
Jasper2452
Franklin24314
DeKalb2354
Gibson2284
Jennings22612
Steuben2113
Ripley2087
Carroll1932
Fayette1907
Perry18612
Starke1787
Posey1770
Orange17324
Wells1712
Wabash1703
Fulton1692
Jefferson1652
Knox1590
Whitley1546
Tipton14311
Washington1421
Spencer1363
Sullivan1341
Clay1245
Huntington1243
Randolph1234
Newton11810
Adams1022
Jay920
Owen911
Pulaski831
Rush804
Brown741
Fountain742
Blackford652
Ohio655
Benton620
Pike560
Vermillion550
Parke521
Switzerland520
Crawford450
Martin450
Union410
Warren231
Unassigned0206

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 101731

Reported Deaths: 3673
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin18483525
Cuyahoga13640500
Hamilton9689255
Lucas5377323
Montgomery439894
Summit3573223
Butler294463
Marion292945
Mahoning2566254
Pickaway238742
Stark1844139
Warren180339
Lorain180278
Columbiana166560
Trumbull1534107
Fairfield140032
Delaware131619
Licking129949
Clark115814
Lake112438
Wood105858
Clermont94111
Medina93035
Miami85338
Tuscarawas78814
Portage76561
Allen76044
Greene70312
Mercer62513
Belmont62126
Richland60812
Erie59227
Ashtabula57446
Geauga55844
Wayne54458
Ross4904
Darke40229
Huron4015
Ottawa39026
Madison38810
Sandusky38417
Hancock3793
Athens3591
Holmes3286
Lawrence2880
Auglaize2566
Union2541
Muskingum2391
Jefferson2342
Scioto2341
Seneca2223
Putnam20817
Knox2067
Washington20522
Preble2042
Shelby2004
Coshocton1946
Champaign1782
Crawford1745
Morrow1722
Hardin16912
Clinton1656
Highland1591
Logan1552
Ashland1493
Defiance1484
Wyandot1488
Fulton1471
Brown1382
Perry1363
Williams1353
Guernsey1187
Hocking1189
Henry1172
Fayette1150
Carroll1105
Monroe9318
Pike770
Jackson750
Van Wert721
Paulding700
Gallia651
Adams612
Meigs500
Vinton312
Morgan280
Harrison261
Noble160
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 79°
Angola
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 75°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 76°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 73°
Van Wert
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 73°
Partly Sunny Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events