Concerned about its impact on dental health, the rising epidemic of obesity, and malnutrition in childhood, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their recommendations on fruit juice consumption in children in 2017:
0-12 months (infants) — NO fruit juice.
1-3 years (toddlers) — No more than 4 ounces/day of 100% juice.
4-6 years — No more than 4-6 ounces/day of 100% juice.
7-18 years — No more than 8 ounces (1 cup)/day of 100% juice.
A recent study suggests that parents now have more than sugar and calories to worry about when they serve their children fruit juices. Measurable levels of four heavy metals — arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury — were found in every fruit juice product tested by Consumer Reports. Of the 45 juices tested, 21 (47%) had “concerning” levels of arsenic, lead, and cadmium, but not mercury. Jesse Hirsch says American children drink a lot of juice:
More than 80 percent of parents of children age 3 and younger give their kids fruit juice at least sometimes, according to a recent national Consumer Reports survey of 3,002 parents. In 74 percent of those cases, kids drink juice once a day or more.
It’s no secret that children are particularly vulnerable to the negative health consequences of exposure to heavy metals:
The harmful effects of heavy metals are well-documented. Depending on how long children are exposed to these toxins and how much they are exposed to, they may be at risk for lowered IQ, behavioral problems (such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), type 2 diabetes, and cancer, among other health issues.
“Exposure to these metals early on can affect their whole life trajectory,” says Jennifer Lowry, M.D., chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, as well as director of clinical pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutic innovations at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “There is so much development happening in their first years of life.”
And adults are also at risk:
Over many years, even modest amounts of heavy metals may raise the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer; cognitive and reproductive problems; and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions.
And arsenic, cadmium, and lead each pose their own set of potential harms. Lead, for example, is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and fertility problems. Arsenic is linked to cardiovascular disease. And long-term cadmium exposure increases the risk of bone damage and kidney disease, among other issues.
Consumer Reports tested the most popular juice varieties and brands, many of which are marketed to children:
For CR’s current project, we looked at 45 juices in four flavors: apple (22), fruit juice blends (13), grape (7), and pear (3). Most were from concentrate, meaning that all water was removed from the pressed fruit for transport, then added back in at the factory.
Twenty-four national, store, and private-label brands were represented: 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods), Apple & Eve, Big Win (Rite Aid), Capri Sun, Clover Valley (Dollar General), Great Value (Walmart), Gerber, Good2Grow, Gold Emblem (CVS), Goya, Honest Kids, Juicy Juice, Looza, Market Pantry (Target), Minute Maid, Mott’s, Nature’s Own, Ocean Spray, Old Orchard, R.W. Knudsen, Simply Balanced (Target), Trader Joe’s, Tree Top, and Welch’s.
For some of the juices tested, consuming as little as a half-cup (4 ounces) a day is potentially harmful to children and adults. Kathleen Doheny reports the results, some of which may be surprising to parents:
- Seven of the 21 had enough heavy metals to potentially harm children who drink a half-cup or more a day, and nine of the 21 held risks for kids drinking a cup or more a day.
- Ten of the juices posed a risk to adults, too: Five were potentially hazardous at a half-cup or more a day, and five at a cup or more a day.
- The highest heavy metal levels were in grape juice and juice blends.
- Organic juices did not have lower heavy metal levels than non-organic.
Heavy metals are elements that exist naturally in Earth’s crust and soil. It takes the human hand to bring these elements to the surface — mining, drilling, fracking, manufacturing, and burning fossil fuels — to contaminate the soil in which we grow our food, the water with which we hydrate our crops and ourselves, and the air which we breathe 12-24 times every minute (give or take) of every hour of every day, depending on our age, health status, and activity level. There are many sources of exposure, not just fruit juices, that we all encounter living in these modern times, allowing heavy metals to accumulate in our bodies over a lifetime and damaging our health and the health of our children.
When it comes to the causes of disease and debilitation in people, sometimes we don’t have to look very far. The threats to our health may not even come directly from the food we eat and drink, but from the way in which it is packaged. We’ll have more about that tomorrow.
Read Consumer Reports full report here.