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    Fruit juice with breakfast places children at higher risk of obesity

    Children who have orange or apple juice for breakfast are 50 per cent more likely to be overweight, and their parents should give them water instead, Austrian scientists say.
    Parents should not assume that juice is healthy and should replace it with a piece of fruit for their children’s breakfast, the researchers said.
    Skipping breakfast completely is also a bad idea. Teenagers who did so were on average a kilogram heavier than those who ate breakfast, the study said.
    The scientists questioned 652 children aged about 13 on their breakfast habits. Most types of food had no clear relationship with their weight.
    However, those who drank fruit juice more than three times a week were 50 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese than those who did not. Those who regularly drank water saw their risk fall by 40 per cent, according to data published at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna.
    Maria Luger, of the Medical University of Vienna, who presented the findings, said the link with fruit juice was “surprising” because of the nutrients in it, but pointed out that it had as many calories from sugar as fizzy drinks.
    “Fruit juice is considered healthy but you have to add water,” she said, suggesting that Britain adopt the Australian habit of diluting juice. “Drink water or unsweetened tea and if you drink fruit juice, add water. For breakfast have unsweetened porridge or cereals.”
    Children who often had pastries for breakfast were more than twice as likely to be overweight. Dr Luger said the key message to parents was to “reduce the sugar at breakfast”.
    She said: “It’s very important to get a lot of fibre. So eat an apple or an orange instead of drinking fruit juice . . . We have to look at the whole breakfast and not fruit juice alone. If you eat pastries and sweetened cereals and drink fruit juice as well, it’s more energy.”
    More than a quarter of the children surveyed regularly skipped breakfast. They weighed 54.8kg on average, compared with 53.2kg for those who ate it daily. “The hypothesis is that breakfast skippers eat more junk food, pastries and sweets and drink more soft drinks” because they are hungry later in the day, Dr Luger said.
    The results cannot prove that a regular morning glass of orange or apple juice causes weight gain. However, Professor Jason Halford, of the University of Liverpool, said that the findings should not be a shock. “Fruit juice is not entirely bad but in terms of appetite it is not as filling as whole fruit and has the fibre removed and consequently [it is] a concentrated form of sugar,” he said. He suggested opting for freshly squeezed juice over concentrate as it is less sugary. “The more you remove things the more you move from healthy to unhealthy,” he added.
    The NHS says that water is best but that a small glass of juice counts towards the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Professor Halford advised parents to “bear in mind it is a source of sugar but there are valuable nutrients in there, unlike soda”.
    However, Carrie Ruxton, of the British Fruit Juice Association, insisted that the study did not prove a link. “A daily 150ml glass of pure fruit juice, the portion size recommended by Public Health England, helps children to meet dietary targets for fruits and vegetables and is an important source of vitamin C, folate and potassium,” she said.

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