Is Fruit Juice good for weight loss?

girl drinking juiceThere are many  popular detox, cleanse, and other liquid diets that utilize  fruit juices as a primary source of calories

The lemon cleanse diet is typical.  For 10 days you have a lemonade drink, saltwater, and an herbal tea laxative.  Participants do lose weight as they are taking in very few calories, but also lose muscle.

It is debatable if the lemon juice helps or the 10 day  fast works just as well with other liquids.

The popularity of such diets is partly  because people believe all fruit juices are healthy since they are “natural”, and full of  vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

However, many people do not recognize that fruit juice sometimes contains just as much, if not more, sugar and calories than sugar-filled soft drinks (1).

While fruit juices do have many nutrients, they are not magical, and for weight loss purposes they do not outweigh the negative effects of the sugar content.

Do NOT assume it that all fruit juices are healthy drink choices, especially for weight loss

Processed Fruit Juice Isn’t the Same as Fresh Squeezed

fresh squeezedWhile fruit juice is in fact made with fruit, the manufacturing process removes much of the fiber and some nutrition (2,3).

Even juices that are labelled “Not From Concentrate” or “100% Juice” have additional additives and flavor enhancers, and manufacturers often use deceptive labeling.

Fruit juice is not often packaged and sold immediately after being squeezed from the fruit. It may sit in an oxygen-depleted holding tank for up to a year before it is put in a package and ends up in stores (4).

Much of the flavor is lost during this storage period so manufacturers enhance their products with “flavor packs” which is not noted on the label (5).

Even high quality juices are a far cry from fresh squeezed.

Inexpensive juices are even worse, as many of those are just sugar-filled water with a little fruit flavoring.

Even the highest quality juice goes through a manufacturing process that causes it to lose flavor which requires producers to add “flavor packs” to restore its natural flavor.

More Sugar than Soda

fruit-juices-vs-soda1

The high sugar content of fruit juices is often overlooked, and  people consider them to be a healthier choice than sodas, but this is not always true.

8  ounces of Coca Cola classic contains 97 calories and 27 grams, or 7 teaspoons, of sugar.

In comparison, an 8 ounce serving of grape juice contains 152 calories and 36 grams, or 9.8 teaspoons, of sugar!

From this chart, Pineapple, Cranberry, and Apple Juice all have higher calorie and sugar content than Coca Cola

Some Fruit juices contains just as much or more sugar and  calories than soda.

Liquid Calories are Uniquely Fattening

liquid caloriesWhile all foods contain calories, our bodies do not process them the same.

Different foods are processed differently and have differing effects on the hunger hormone levels, feelings of hunger, and the metabolic centers of the brain (67).

Our body has a naturally set weight point, and the brain adjusts feelings of hunger in relation to consumption of solid foods around this (8).

Liquids have a very different effect on our bodies response than solid foods.  They do not promote feelings of fullness or satiety.

Since they do not contribute to feelings of satiety, the brain continues to send messages of hunger and we actually consume more calories than we need (9,10).

This is one of the reasons sugar-filled, high-calorie drinks are often to blame for obesity.

One study showed that a child’s risk of obesity increased by 60 percent for every serving of sugary drink they consumed (11).

Other studies have also proven that overconsumption of fruit juice increases the risk of obesity and Type II diabetes (121314).

Controlled studies proved that consuming sugar in liquid form can cause insulin resistance, raise triglyceride levels, negatively impact LDL cholesterol, and cause accumulation of belly fat in as little as ten weeks (15).

Fructose can be the worst form of sugar

glucose vs fructose

Many people assume Fructose is better for you than the Sucrose in soda since it comes from fruit and  is more “natural”

Actually, Fructose is worse if you consume more than your body needs

Glucose:

Your body burns Glucose for energy, and it is easily stored in muscle cells or as glycogen in the liver.

Your pancreas produces insulin in response to excessive blood glucose levels to signal transport of the glucose to muscles, glycogen storage in the liver, and lastly as storage in fat cells.

Insulin also regulates the production of the “hunger hormone” Leptin, which signals satiety, or fullness to the brain so you stop eating.

Sucrose:

Sucrose is about 50% glucose and 50% sucrose (16).

When sucrose is consumed it is easily metabolized to fructose and glucose.  The body uses the glucose for energy and the fructose is metabolized by the liver.

Fructose:

Your pancreas  does not produce insulin  in response to consumption of fructose (17).

Insulin regulates production of the “hunger hormone” Leptin.  Lower levels of Leptin lead to  overconsumption (18).

Fructose is only metabolized in the liver where it is converted into glucose, glycogen, lactate, and triglyceride (19).

About 50% of fructose is converted in liver to glucose for use as energy, with about quarter converted to lactate. 18%  to glycogen, for storage in the liver and 1% to triglyceride.

Too much fructose  can lead to fatty build-up in the liver which can hinder liver function and has been shown to increase risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes (20,21222324).

This effect is even more pronounced for people who are overweight or already suffer from metabolic disorders (2526).

In another study done with actual fruit juice, participants were asked to drink just 16 ounces of grape juice a day for three months.

In that short amount of time, researches noticed increased insulin resistance and waist circumference (27).

A third study showed that drinking 2 or more 8 ounce servings of fruit juice a day more than doubled the risk of gout in women (28).

Consuming too much fructose can be hard on the liver, and  lead to insulin resistance, metabolic problems, and weight gain.

Whole fruit is much more filling

fiber fruit
Drinking a glass of fruit juice prompts VERY different response in our bodies  compared to eating a whole piece of fruit.

While fruit juice does contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants necessary for good health, it is not as nutrient-rich as whole fruits or vegetables.

For example, orange juice contains Vitamins C and B1, folate and potassium (29) along with healthy antioxidants (3031).

However, it contains none of the fiber of an orange which makes it a poor choice compared to whole oranges or  vegetables (32).

Fruit takes more effort to chew and swallow, and whole fruit is hard to overconsume since it is very filling (33).

The sugars in fruit also break down during digestion more slowly than those in fruit juices since  the pulp contains a lot of fiber.

Because fruit juice has no fiber and is easy to consume in larger quantities than whole fruit, many people ingest too much sugar.

Whole Fruit Good – Fruit Juice, not so much

Fruit-Salad-BowlDespite the fact that nutrition guidelines state that a serving of fruit juice counts towards the daily recommended allowance of fruit, in many cases it is not a good choice.

While it may seem healthy because it contains fruit, fruit juices are actually more similar to sugary sodas and should be enjoyed only in very small quantities, if at all.

Whole fruit contains more fiber and nutrition, is more filling, and always a better choice than juice.

You might also want to read about Dried Fruit – is it good for weight loss.