It's a mantra that every parent hears from their pediatrician: Don't let your tyke drink too much juice.
Not so fast, says a new study. Despite widespread worries that juice binges might be fueling record child obesity levels, the study found no link between children's consumption of 100 percent fruit juice and their weight.
"There's this misconception out there," said Theresa Nicklas, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine and the study's lead author. "Juice tastes good, it's naturally sweet, so some people think that kids drink too much of it."
In fact, children who drink juice tend to have healthier diets, because they also take in more vitamins and less fat and sugar, says the study, published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The study analyzed the juice-drinking and diet habits of more than 3,600 children who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Although the study was more comprehensive than others that have linked juice and weight, there were some drawbacks. First, tallying adults' diets is hard enough. Getting accurate data about how much a child eats and drinks is about as easy as counting how much a frog jumps.
The study was sponsored by the USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center, but partly funded by the Juice Products Association. Study scientists, who included Nicklas and doctors from Louisiana State University and Harvard Medical School, said the group played no role in the research.
"I think everybody would agree it's healthier to drink water," said Dr. Marcy Baker, a Tampa pediatrician. "I tell everybody it's better to eat the apple than drink apple juice."
This study won't change that, she said.
"The other thing is, if kids are drinking a lot of juice, maybe they're not drinking milk like they're supposed to."
But Nicklas said drinking juice — as long as it's 100 percent juice, not sugary juice drinks — is a good option for kids who aren't eating enough fruit.
"It's an easier way to get a serving of fruit into their kids," she said.
But beware: Although the study offers good news about juice and kids' weight, it didn't address another potential pitfall of a heavy juice habit: cavities.
Lisa Greene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3322.