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   Jun 28

How fruit juice has turned into junk food: Modern methods mean even ‘not from concentrate’ drinks can be stored for a year

Juice was popularised after Second World War as cheap health supplement
But mass production methods take away much of what makes it healthy

Juices give many vitamins and minerals – but no fibre and a lot of sugar

There was a time when it was marketed as the ultimate health drink, a glass of sunshine packed with vitamins and energy.

Generations were raised to believe orange juice fights off colds, boosts the immune system, tones the skin and protects against cancer. Yet in the topsy-turvy world of health advice, what’s good for you one day, turns out to be bad for you the next.

Mass production: Orange juice has changed over the years

This week an influential body of Government scientists blamed Britain’s love affair with orange juice and other sugary drinks for fuelling a crisis of obesity and ill health.

The warning follows calls to remove fruit juice as one of the recommended ‘five a day’ portions of fruit or vegetables, and for parents to ban it from the meal table.

So if fruit juice turns out to be such a devil in disguise, why have we all been led to believe it was so healthy for so long?

The idea goes back to the 1920s, when American nutritionist Elmer McCollum blamed a condition called acidosis, an excess of acid in the blood, on diets rich in bread and meat. His bizarre solution was lots of lettuce and — paradoxically — acidic citrus fruits.

At the time orange juice was not hugely popular, but fruit growers leapt on the acidosis panic and sales rose.

Juice got an even bigger boost thanks to World War II when the U.S. Government wanted a new way to get a product rich in vitamin C to troops overseas. It poured money into research.

In 1947 — just in time for the post-war consumer boom — scientists invented a way to remove water from juice and freeze the concentrate into a palatable product.

The blocks of this concentrate could be sold to the new fridge-owning U.S. consumers or stored by manufacturers for months at a time, and sales exploded.

Meanwhile in the UK, war babies had been given rose hip, blackcurrant and concentrated orange juice by the Government as a cheap nutrition supplement in the 1940s. This continued into the 1950s, seeding the idea in a generation of baby boomers that juice is healthy.

By the 1980s orange juice was being marketed not just as a health drink, but also as the key to a stylish, modern life — a status it enjoys today.

But while the juice in the supermarket is often sold as ‘natural’ or ‘fresh’, it is usually anything but.

Concentrating juice doesn’t just remove water, it also removes the flavour. After it has been reconstituted, manufacturers add ‘flavour packs’ — cocktails of chemicals which restore ‘natural’ oranginess.

You may think ‘not from concentrate’ juice means a more authentic product. You’d be wrong.

Juice made that way is heated and stored in air-free tanks for up to a year. Again, the process strips the juice of flavour, which has to be added afterwards. But the flavour packs contain orange essence and orange oil so don’t have to appear separately on the ingredients list.

Breakfast! But while juice contains many vitamins and minerals, there is no fibre – and a lot of sugar

Manufacturers say they help give their product a consistent flavour. They also explain why juice in cartons doesn’t taste like fresh juice.

‘Naturalness’ isn’t the only dubious claim made for juice. For decades, health gurus, and some doctors, have claimed the vitamin C in juice fights common colds.

But while the immune system needs vitamin C, there’s little evidence that regularly taking the stuff prevents colds.

Research shows that the best that can be claimed for vitamin C is that it might shorten colds by a day or two. Given that most of us get two colds a year, worrying about vitamin C every day seems an over-reaction.

There’s another myth about vitamin C, that citrus fruits are the best source. Yet plenty of vegetables, including broccoli, potatoes, kale and peppers, have doses comparable to those in fruit.

Hidden sugar in food

What you will get from juice is sugar. Lots and lots of it.

The new advice this week from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is that men should have a maximum of 35g of sugar a day — seven to eight teaspoons — while women should not exceed 25g — five to six teaspoons. A single 330ml glass of orange juice has eight teaspoons.

Helen Bond, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, says: ‘People have lost sight of how much sugar is in food and portion sizes have got bigger. A 150ml glass provides one of your five a day and anything more than that doesn’t count. But measure people’s glasses and they are often 250ml.

‘Juice provides a lot of vitamins and minerals, but unlike fresh fruit you don’t get the healthy fibre.’

Doctors say the huge volume of sugar in our diet is contributing to the obesity epidemic, causing heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

There is growing concern that not all sugars are the same — and that fructose, the type found in fruit, may be more harmful than table sugar. American hormone scientist Robert Lustig argues that it does more damage to the liver and cells than glucose or sucrose. He says excessive fructose intake is key to rising obesity and diabetes levels.

There is even evidence that fructose may contribute to higher uric acid levels in the blood — and increase the risk of gout, an excruciatingly painful condition that is becoming ever more common.

Orange juice can also rot your teeth. Around half of five-year-olds have signs of damage to their tooth enamel, and too much fruit juice is thought to be a key cause.

There have been signs this year, however, that the tide is turning.

Schools have been leading the way. In January, Elizabeth Chaplin, the head of Valence Primary School in Dagenham, London, told parents that pupils would not be allowed juice in their lunch boxes. Instead, they had to drink water.

Around that time, Professor Susan Jebb, the Government’s obesity tsar, said juice shouldn’t count towards your five a day.

‘Fruit juice is absorbed very fast,’ she said, ‘so by the time it gets to your stomach, your body doesn’t know whether it’s Coca-Cola or orange juice, frankly. I have to say it is a relatively easy thing to give up. If you are going to drink it, you should dilute it.’

Weaning Britain off fruit juice may be difficult. Market research firm Mintel says 83 per cent of us drink fruit juice or a smoothie at least once a week, while 76 per cent believe fruit juice to be healthy.

But if you need motivation when you sit down to breakfast, remember this: there is more sugar in a 250ml glass of fruit juice than in a large bowl of Frosties with milk.

And that’s food for thought.


Source: Daily Mail

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