Soda Battle Continues, But What About The Juice?

Blogger and risk perception maven David Ropeik has impeccable timing and makes a truly smart point in his prophetic piece today about the health hazards of all kinds of sugary drinks (which he posted just hours before a New York judge struck down the city’s limits on big sugary sodas).

mauitimeweekly/flickr

mauitimeweekly/flickr

Ropeik’s basic point is this: why are we so fixated on soda when other drinks contain as much if not more sugar? In other words, what about the juice?? On his Big Think blog, he writes:

Since too high a dose of either fructose or sucrose is bad for us, producing the same health outcomes, why are many of the We Know What’s Good For You Food Police focusing on just one of them? For a clue, check out this picture, currently making the rounds on the social net.

[The picture, which I won't repost here, shows a sort of police lineup of bad actor drinks: Kool-Aid, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Chocolate Milk and the amount of sugar in a serving of each.]

The clue lies not in what the picture shows, but in what’s missing. Where is the orange juice, the grape juice, the apple juice, the cranberry juice, all of which may be more natural but which have as much as, or more total sugar per unit than any of the drinks shown?

Then, citing the USDA, he offers this alarming graphic (prune juice? who knew?) on the high sugar content of so many seemingly “natural” juices:

Screen shot 2013-03-12 at 3.20.24 PM

His overall message is one we should all heed:

This is just one more example of how the Risk Perception Gap – when we’re more afraid of some things than we need to be or less afraid of some things than we ought to be – can get us in trouble. So calling out the truth about the distorted focus on fructose is offered here in the hopes that government and industry approaches to the dangers of our sweet tooth can come closer to hitting the sweet spot of doing us the most good.

So why are we still feeling good about our kids’ fresh glass of OJ in the morning when we’d likely maim anyone who offers them a Coke?

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  • kipb7

    See “Fat Chance” by UCSF endocrinologist Robert Lustig (2012) – he argues that fruit juice is indeed as bad as soda in terms of the fructose/sucrose and lack of fiber. Eating fruit itself is fine, however, because the fiber slows down the digestion so the liver can keep up with the fructose. As “loislevin” here mentions, perhaps having all the pulp is enough.

  • Anna

    Soda contains phosphoric acid and that’s what is being ignored in this article. Phosphoric acid, not sugar, is what dissolves your bones and teeth by upsetting the 2:1 Calcium:Phosphorus ratio. Yes, sugar is contributing to the diabesity epidemic but why ignore the other health consequences of drinking soda?

  • loislevin

    If juice is just ripe fresh-squeezed fruit with the pulp (the only kind of juice that is palatable to me) there are many nutritional benefits. The corporations that sell soda (like Coca Cola) pasturize and pulverize it and manage to make it taste like uncarbonated soda, and they add vitamins/minerals to it so people figure that it’s healthy.

  • Reasonable?

    I think that regulating consumption in general is a bad idea.
    Let people regulate themselves.
    The problem is that health insurance does not confont individuals with a financial penalty for “bad health” behavior. Bad health hygiene is an externality in our increasingly costly health care system.

    We have the metrics to do this and evidence to do better.

    If you cut your soda, juice, bread chips, candy, you’ll most likely lose weight, your HbA1c will improve, your cholesterol will improve. It’s like magic withouth drugs.

    Why aren’t we incentivizing people to do that rather than trying to tell them what to put in their mouths?

  • Catherine

    What would be more helpful would be if labels would differentiate between added sugars and natural sugars. 100 percent orange juice that has no added sugar is natural. Sure, you shouldn’t be guzzling 2 liters of it a day, but it is markedly healthier for you than soda with added sugar and no real nutrients.

    • MITBeta

      Sugar is sugar, no?

  • Jagman622

    I applauded Mayor Bloomberg for trying to do something about diabesity (diabetes and obesity). Yes you do need to check the sugar content of all juices but remember not all sugars are the same. An 8 oz glass of OJ in the morning has many health benefits for you but a 32 oz of soda definitely is unhealthy, not to mention the caffeine content of soda.

  • capemh

    Guess which drink has Vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, calcium and B6…

  • jg

    OJ in the morning in 6 oz juice glass is not the same as downing a BIG Gulp. And it is not full of chemicals, and comes from living thing, at least. Moderation is key.