The federal government is considering whether fruit juice should be squeezed out as a healthy dietary choice under Canada's Food Guide.
The dietary bible recommends that children and adults consume up to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Half a cup (125 ml) of 100 per cent fruit juice is among the recommended examples of a serving.
Health Canada "is in the process of reviewing the evidence base for its current guidance to Canadians,'' the federal department said in an emailed statement late Tuesday.
"Depending on the conclusions of the scientific review, guidance for consumption of various foods, including juice, could be updated in the future.''
Canada's Food Guide identifies types of foods and the quantities that ideally should be consumed. The document recommends eating unjuiced fruits more often, "recognizing that there are benefits to eating whole fruits over juice,'' Health Canada said.
However, obesity experts have long argued that fruit juices should be removed from the Food Guide because of their high sugar content and the number of pound-packing calories they contain.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute, likened a serving of juice to a glass of water to which "five teaspoons of sugar are added plus a few smatterings of vitamins.''
"And yet ... juice enjoys a totally undeserved health halo that in part, no doubt, is due to the fact our Food Guide still says that juice is a fruit equivalent, even though it isn't,'' he said Tuesday from Ottawa.
"Drop for drop, it has the same number of calories ... as Coca-Cola. In some cases, it has more. So grape juice is double the sugar, double the calories,'' he said.
"(Juice) doesn't have the same satiety benefits–it doesn't fill you up. It doesn't have the same vitamins, minerals and nutrients because the processing is extreme and it absolutely strips those away to a degree from the juice,'' added Freedhoff, who has been calling for juice to be removed from Canada's Food Guide for almost 15 years.
He is not alone in his concern.
The World Health Organization says people should limit consumption of "free sugars,'' including sugar in honey, syrups and fruit juices, to a maximum of 10 per cent of daily calories, with an ideal limit of five per cent.
The Childhood Obesity Foundation, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation are among the health organizations that recommend limiting juice intake. They encourage children and adults to eat more oranges, apples and other high-fibre fruits instead.
"Eat your fruit, don't drink it,'' agreed Freedhoff.
However, the president of the Canadian Beverage Association disagreed, saying 100 per cent fruit juice is a source of the same nutrients that are found in whole fruits.
"At a time that we know Canadians aren't eating enough fruits and vegetables, (juices) provide a convenient way to round out fruit servings for people who want some choice,'' said Jim Goetz.
Drinking juice helps Canadians meet the Food Guide's currently recommended number of servings of fruit and vegetables, Goetz said, "in a way that people find appealing.''