Fruit juices: Bad for babies

The American Academy of Pediatric strictly recommends no fruit juices for babies, absolutely no fruit juices at all, before age one, and very limited, if at all, for toddlers and older children.

This is a major shift from the recommendation of the AAP 16 years ago, when it even fruit juices for the first 6 months. The academy today even recommends doing away with the beloved sippy cup for children, which is a contributing factor in childhood obesity and T2 diabetes.

There is no evidence of any health benefit of fruit juices in infancy and the high sugar load in them is actually harmful. One of the authors of a recent study, Dr. Steven Abrams, Chair of Pediatrics at Dell Medical school at the University of Texas, Austin, also said “offering babies juice could keep them from getting enough breast milk or formula — and the needed protein, fat and other nutrients they contain….once babies start eating solid foods, they should have whole fruit that is mashed or pureed, rather than juice.”

Fruit juices, which are loaded with sugar, and artificial fruit drinks, are actually unhealthy. The only worse beverage are soft drinks, which are toxic for both adults and children, increasing the risk for Metabolic Syndrome. The bad health effects are not obvious right away. They take years to manifest in various organs. By then, the damage is done, and different ailments start to appear.

Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of major risk factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis, T2 diabetes, thyroid problems, and even cancer.

The heartbreaking realities of poverty in our country and worldwide are painful to realize and accept, both as a human being and as a physician. The less privileged usually have limited or no other option at all but to feed their children and eat whatever is available or accessible to them, healthy or not. To most of them, nutritional science is an abstract, irrelevant, and of no practical value.

While I empathize with them and can not blame them for their eating habits, I strongly feel that those who are better educated and can afford are being unwise and are hurting themselves, impairing their health, by unhealthy practices like drinking soft drinks, smoking, and alcohol abuse. We ought to know better.

Once babies are started on solids at four to six months old, they do not need additional liquids besides breast milk or formula. Water, maybe, from time to time, but certainly not fruits juices.

For older children, the Academy recommends restrictions on fruit juices, if given at all: four ounces daily for toddlers age one to three; six ounces or less for four- to six-year-olds; and less than eight ounces for older children and teens. Fruit juices may be omitted altogether, and instead, fresh fruits, or freshly squeezed juices, are better alternatives.

The bad thing about fruit juices from powder mixes or from concentrates, is not only because are they practically only sugar and water, and the fact that many children drink these as replacements for (and not consume) fruits and vegetables, and, therefore, miss the fiber, nutrients and vitamins in them.

The healthier drinks are clean filtered water and milk (with no sugar additive). Staying away from soft drinks and limited intake of fruit juices could also help reduce the risk for obesity.

It is best for children to develop the habit of eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water and milk at an early age instead of sugary fruit juice mixes.

Also, sippy cups (non-restricted sipping of sugary drinks and high risk of tooth decay among users) are bad for children; drinking from a cup is what the Academy recommends. If sippy cup is used, it should only be filled with water and or measured milk at a fixed schedule of feeding.

The more red meat you eat

A new clinical investigation published in the British Journal of Medicine  (BMJ) reveals “the more red meat you eat, the greater your risk is of dying from one of eight diseases.”

The research involved 536,000 men and women, ages between 50 and 71, whose diet and health were tracked for 16 years. Their food intake, total meat, processed and unprocessed red meats (beef, pork, lamb), and white meats (poultry and fish).

“Compared with the one-fifth of people who ate the least red meat, the one-fifth who ate the most had a 26 percent increased risk of death from various causes. High red meat consumption increased the rate of dying from cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, kidney disease and liver disease,” according to BMJ.

The study pointed out that white met, on the other hand, may be good for people because “those who ate the highest proportion of white meat had a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from various causes, compared with those who ate the least white meat.”

And which fish is better?

As far as nutritionon and health are concerned, there seems to be no big argument that fish is healthier than red meat. But the question is which fish is better, just the fatty fish?

No, new studies showed that any kind of fish consumed at least twice a week reduces various health risks.

The oily darker fleshed fish like herring and salmon are loaded with heart-healthy polyunsaturated, omega-3 fatty acids. Mackerel, anchovies, shad, trout and sardines, and other fish also have these wonderful cardio-protective fatty acids.

The giant or large varieties of fish, like king mackerel, shark, swordfish, large albacore tuna, contain more methyl mercury and therefore not recommended for consumption.

But these good fats are not the only reason why fish is better for us, compared to red meat. US-FDA dietary guidelines encourage adults to partake at least 8 ounces of a variety of fish and seafood every week, about 2-meal’s worth to benefit from the “total package of nutrients in fish.” This includes lean protein, vitamin Bs, A and D, and minerals like iodine, selenium, zinc, and iron.

Several independent studies have shown that individuals who eat fish regularly are less likely to die of a heart attack compared to those who do not eat fish. A Harvard clinical review “concluded that eating one to two servings of fish rich in omega-3s every week cut the risk of dying of a heart attack by one-third.” Those on Mediterranean style diet that includes seafood also have lower risk and rate of obesity.


Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA,  a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email:

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