Pure fruit juice is less bad for your health than drinks with added sugar, such as soft drinks. At the same time, it is not suitable as a direct substitute for eating fruit. This is Floor Scheffers' conclusion in her doctoral thesis. She earned her PhD at Utrecht University yesterday, with the University Medical Center Utrecht and RIVM supporting her with her doctoral research.
In her doctoral thesis, Scheffers investigated whether drinking pure fruit juice without added sugar or other additions can serve as a substitute for eating fruit, or whether it is best avoided, like drinks with added sugar (such cola, fruit syrup and sports and energy drinks). She looked at the effects on chronic diseases such as heart and vascular disease, type 2 diabetes and asthma. The research showed that pure fruit juice is not as healthy as fruit, but not as unhealthy as soft drinks.
Limited evidence for beneficial effects
Pure fruit juice is not a suitable substitute for fruit, but drinking a glass every now and then won't do any harm. Moderate consumption of pure fruit juice (up to seven glasses per week) can even be beneficial for the risk of heart and vascular disease, while no connection was found for type 2 diabetes and asthma. However, evidence is still limited. That is why Scheffers concludes in her thesis not to recommend using pure fruit juice as a complete or partial substitute for eating fruit, particularly due to the low satiety value (it is not 'filling') in combination with the high sugar content. But there is no need to advise not drinking pure fruit juice at all, as with drinks with added sugar.
Significant variation in guidelines globally
Globally, nutritional guidelines advise eating fruit and advise not to drink drinks with added sugar. Regarding drinking pure fruit juice, the recommendations differ per country. In the Netherlands, the Health Council of the Netherlands recommends minimising pure fruit juice consumption, while the guidelines in the United States and United Kingdom recommend that fruit can be partly substituted by pure fruit juice.