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Orange juice helps keep kids healthy and adults happy

by Chip Carter | December 02, 2011

Recent research shows that drinking 100-percent orange juice has a positive impact on children’s health and may make adults happier. The sweetness of orange juice has led to concern among some parents that it might contribute to obesity, but a new study makes it clear there is no such link, and in fact it likely improves children’s overall health. What is more, a separate study recently found that drinking orange juice might actually make people happy.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2003-06 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and found that children who regularly consume 100-percent orange juice tended to have significantly higher intakes of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, folate, dietary fiber and magnesium than non-consumers. None of the children who consumed 100-percent orange juice were below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for vitamin C, while nearly 30 percent of non-consumers were below the EAR. Diet quality was significantly higher in those children consuming 100-percent orange juice than in non-consumers, as was intake of total fruit, fruit juice and whole fruit.

Researchers from several universities conducted the studies and recently published their findings in the peer-reviewed Nutrition Research journal.

“A growing body of research has painted a clear picture that enhanced nutrient intake and better diet quality are associated with drinking 100-percent orange juice in children,” said study co-author Carol E. O’Neil of the School of Human Ecology, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. “Our research adds further support to the association between drinking 100-percent orange juice and higher intakes of five important nutrients that are generally under consumed by the U.S. population.”

This is the first study to examine typical intake of 100-percent orange juice in a nationally representative population. NHANES is an ongoing series of surveys, implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducted and analyzed in a way to be representative of the U.S. population. The analysis published in Nutrition Research used 2003-06 data from more than 7,200 children and adolescents.

Another member of the research team, Gail Rampersaud, a registered dietician in the food science and human nutrition departments at the University of Florida, told The Produce News that despite “a lot of chatter” about whole orange juice contributing to childhood obesity, we found that kids who drank orange juice were no more likely than kids who didn’t to be overweight.”

Ms. Rampersaud said that the same held true for all 100-percent juices, but that orange juice seems to provide even more benefit to growing bodies than other varieties.

The key, of course, is moderation.

“There’s been a lot of chatter about 100-percent juice in kids’ diets — are kids drinking too much juice; should kids be drinking 100-percent juice — so this is great news for parents,” Ms. Rampersaud said. “We want to keep that in perspective: your kids don’t need to be drinking 30, 40, 50 ounces a day of orange juice, but eight ounces a day is associated with a lot of health benefits.”

Results of another recent study, this one conducted by the Florida Department of Citrus, found that drinking orange juice actually made participants feel positive, carefree and rejuvenated. Results of the study were released last month.

Through a patented research process designed to reveal unconscious emotions, consumers shared thoughts and feelings about orange juice and its role in their lives. Findings showed that while participants view their daily life as a hard road, drinking orange juice provides a momentary escape to a more positive mindset. The rejuvenating feelings provide energy and resolve to take on the day — the theme of the current round of Florida juice television advertising.

Research participants shared positive emotions about orange juice through analogies and memories. One respondent compared orange juice to a water station in the marathon of life, while another described life as an everyday battle in which orange juice helps to carry you through the day and help you win the war. Another participant shared, “orange juice almost makes me feel like a child again, where I was comfortable, cozy, and secure.”

The link between orange juice and a positive outlook was revealed through in-depth interviews with a small group of participants and also supported by a less-detailed survey of 1,002 adults nationwide, which showed more than half of the respondents believe drinking a glass of orange juice provides an energizing boost, while 33 percent said that it is a simple way to help improve mood. Furthermore, when American adults drink orange juice, 56 percent of those surveyed said that they feel rejuvenated, followed by less-reported results, including calm, positive, happy and alive.