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Would you drink Coke or Pepsi for breakfast?

November 9, 2009 |  1:24 pm

It appears that L.A. Times readers love their juice. Dozens of you wrote in to sound off about Sunday’s story “Nutrition Experts See Juice Glass as Half Empty.” The bottom line – that 100% fruit juice can be as unhealthy as soda – was not welcome news to many readers.

Juice To recap, the story points out that fruit juice has comparable amounts of calories and sugar as soda on an ounce-per-ounce basis. Drinking excess soda will make you gain weight, and the same is true of juice. Health experts scratch their heads when schools remove soda from their vending machines and substitute juice instead. Though juice comes from fruit, it is not nutritionally comparable because it has more sugar and less fiber. As Dr. Charles Billington, an appetite researcher and endocrinologist at the University of Minnesota, put it: “It’s pretty much the same as sugar water.”

Juice drinkers wrote in with their complaints. Among them:

If [your butt] is super-glued to the couch, you can become obese eating celery. (I doubt it – that would mean eating a LOT of celery – but in principle, you could become obese if all you ate were apples and oranges.)

And:

My Dad lived to be 96 and drank more than one glass of orange juice, squeezed fresh every day. He hooked me, but I am only 80.

One reader pointed the finger at the way juice is packaged:

Just as with soda, having a big old half gallon in the fridge leads to pouring big old glasses of it any old time -- and a whole lot of calories.

But he added:

My father in his 60's was thinking that he was so healthy drinking his Tropicana orange juice every day -- a whole quart. Then suddenly, wham!! Diabetes hit him and he almost died. This is a Yale Medical School grad very aware of medical issues. In hindsight, he realized that he had been in sugar denial.

Several readers also wrote in to say that they’ve been on to juice for some time now. For instance:

I stopped drinking fruit juice several years ago when I realized I had high triglycerides, which can be a symptom of the body having trouble processing sugar and other carbohydrates. The large amount of sugar in orange juice even makes my teeth hurt now when I try some.

A researcher from the Harvard-affiliated Joslin Diabetes Center commented:

The "healthy halo" around juice has been in great need of a reevaluation.

He pointed to this study, published last week in the journal Cell Metabolism, that found that sugar consumption reduced the lifespan of worms. (I know, people are not worms, but they are useful models for studying aspects of human health.)

If you’d like to add your two cents, please feel free to post a comment here.

The problem of excess sugar consumption certainly raises the question (asked by one reader) of how much sugar one can consume each day without getting into trouble. The answer depends on how many total calories you’re shooting for each day. A helpful guide is available from LifeClinic.com. For instance, a 2,200-calorie diet can include up to 12 teaspoons (or 44 grams) of sugar each day.

I also got questions from many readers asking whether their beverage of choice (pomegranate juice, cranberry juice) was any healthier than orange or apple juice. You can look up almost anything at this website from the Agricultural Research Service’s Nutrient Data Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Be sure to check the 1-cup option to get an accurate read on calories, sugar and other components of an actual serving size (the program defaults to “100 grams”).

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: Though it comes from real fruit, this glass of orange juice might was well be a Coke or Pepsi. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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