Feature Archive

Putting the Squeeze on Juice

Excess juice can be very bad for your child's bowels.

By Lynda Liu
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Gary Vogin

When you hear the phrase "All things in moderation," fruit juice probably doesn't come to mind, but most pediatricians caution parents that allowing kids to drink excessive amounts of juice is a recipe for poor health.

Studies over the past decade have shown a host of potential problems with fruit juice consumption in children, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Nutrition even issued a policy statement in 1991 telling doctors to caution parents about the dangers.

The Dangers of Excess Juice

  1. Juices fill kids with empty calories. "Fruit juices can fill kids up so that they're not hungry at the dinner table and are too full to eat more nutritious foods," warns Carlos Lifschitz, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
  2. Certain juices are associated with tummy troubles. Some fruit juices -- including apple, pear, and prune -- contain sorbitol, a naturally occurring but problematic sugar alcohol. Because sorbitol is not completely absorbed in the small bowel, it makes its way to the large bowel where it ferments and produces gas, says Lifschitz. In addition, many of the juices that contain sorbitol also have an imbalance in the ratio of the sugars fructose and glucose, which may reduce fructose absorption. These factors can lead to cramps, diarrhea, or loss of appetite in a child, says Lifschitz.