Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Is it time to ditch your morning juice?

Fruit juices and blended smoothies continue to be a popular health craze. Yet these are not as healthy as you may think.

Many people have a juice or smoothie with their breakfast to give themselves a nutrient boost for the day ahead. But the morning is a key time of day to take medicines, particularly for those on daily long-term medication. And taking certain medicines with fruit juice could be hazardous to your health, by increasing or decreasing the amount of medicine entering your bloodstream.

Last month, an article in The Pharmaceutical Journal highlighted interactions between fruit juice and common medicines.  There's evidence that grapefruit juice in particular can interact with a range of medicines, including some blood pressure pills and statins. Other juices, including apple, orange and cranberry, may also pose problems. Patients taking warfarin (a commonly prescribed blood thinning drug) are advised to avoid drinking cranberry juice unless the health benefits are considered to outweigh the risks. If they do have a regular intake of cranberry juice or cranberry products, they should be monitored carefully to make sure the warfarin is working and their blood is clotting properly.

If you're worried about fruit juice interacting with any of your medicines, speak to your pharmacist. And if you are on regular medication, maybe it's time to switch to taking your medicines with a glass of water instead (unless otherwise advised).

According to the British Soft Drinks Association's 2014 'UK Soft Drinks Report', sales of 100% fruit juices and smoothies are actually in decline. Carbonates remain the largest soft drinks sector (45%) followed by dilutables (22%), bottled water (16%), still and juice drinks (£10%) and fruit juice (just 7%). Bottled water was the fastest-growing soft drinks category in 2013, as 'consumers looked for hydration without calories'.

Currently, a 150ml glass of unsweetened fruit juice counts towards our 'five a day'. But in November 2014, campaign group Action on Sugar warned that these drinks could be doing more harm than good, contributing to tooth decay, obesity and type-2 diabetes. Many children's juices contain at least six teaspoons of sugar and come in cartons larger than the recommended size.

Following the Action on Sugar report, the British Dental Health Foundation warned that fruit smoothies contain very high levels of sugar and acid and can damage teeth, leading to tooth decay and dental erosion. Every time you sip on a fruit smoothie, your teeth are placed under acid attack for up to an hour. It's estimated that around one in three adults in England has tooth decay, which is often triggered by overexposure to sugary food and drink. Tooth decay is currently the most common reason for children in the UK to be admitted to hospital.

In August 2013, research published in the British Medical Journal revealed that nurses who ate whole fruits (e.g. blueberries, grapes and apples) were at a lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes, while those who drank fruit juice were at an increased risk. 

If research continues to discovers that fruit juices and smoothies are not necessarily the healthiest option, perhaps it's time to rethink your preferred breakfast drink.

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