Drinking 100 per cent fruit juice early in life was associated with healthier dietary patterns in later childhood without adversely impacting weight gain, say researchers.
The study, published in the BMC Nutrition, found that consumption of 100 per cent fruit juice was associated with higher intakes of whole fruit and total fruit as well as better diet quality through childhood and into middle adolescence.
"This research showed that children who consumed about 1.5 cups of fruit juice per day during the pre-school years tended to maintain healthier diets into adolescence than children who drank less than half cup per day," said study researcher Lynn L Moore from the Boston University, US.
"In addition, over 10 years of follow-up, juice consumption within the range typically consumed by these children (one-two cups per day), was not associated with excess weight gain during childhood," Moore added.
For the findings, the research team tracked diet records as well as the height and weight data, from a group of 100 children (age 3-6) and followed them for a decade.
Whole and total fruit consumption was assessed using recommendations from Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) at early age. The researcher found that pre-schoolers with higher intakes of 100 per cent fruit juice (one cups/day) had significantly higher intakes of whole fruit and total fruit at 14-17 years of age than those children who consumed little juice less than half cup per day.
Pre-schoolers who drank 100 per cent fruit juice were nearly four times as likely to meet current 'Dietary Guideline' recommendations for whole and total fruit intake during adolescence than those pre-schoolers with low intakes.
The study showed that those children with higher fruit juice intake during pre-school years had significantly higher diet quality scores than those children with lower juice intake at all ages.
Fruit juice consumption was not associated with a change in Body Mass Index (BMI) during childhood and into middle adolescence.
"Fruit consumption, particularly whole fruit consumption, has many health benefits throughout the lifespan. Avoiding juice during these early formative years may have unintended effects on evolving dietary behaviours," Moore noted.
This study confirms findings from several previous studies suggesting juice drinking in young children may promote better diet quality and higher intakes of the whole fruit.
"These benefits, associated with moderate intakes of 100 per cent fruit juice, were not accompanied by any adverse effects on childhood weight," the study authors wrote.