Fattening? Is it like a soda? And other thorny doubts about orange juice

The 13th Congress of the European Federation of Nutrition Societies (FENS), held last month in Dublin in Ireland, several pleas were heard in favour of orange juice. The most out-of-the-box was the remarkable presence of hesperidine, an even little-known antioxidant, which belongs to the polyphenol family and which, according to some studies, promotes the elasticity of blood vessels so that it could help control high blood pressure. But orange juice keeps nutritionists divided. For some, it is a polyvitamin; for others, the sugary demon himself... what are we in?

Remedy for hypertension or smokescreen?

With the furore of superfoods in low hours, it's time to suck in to the less-known vitamins. And hesperidine is the pretty new girl of orange juice makers (not from the producers of orange monda and lironda). The European Association of Fruit Juice Producers argues that there is more hesperidine in a glass of juice from the supermarket than in the juice at home . The reason is in the squeeze process. The one at home only extracts the liquid, discarding the pulp and shell. The industrial system, on the other hand, rushes to the maximum the orange monda, a kind of receptacle where large amounts of hesperidine accumulate. This is what researchers at the Complutense University demonstrated in a paper published in the scientific journal Food Chemistry last summer, although their conclusions concerned more about antioxidant properties than circulatory properties


Joining the industrial juice is loaded with hesperidine to the supposed antiaterogenic powers of that polyphenol, Professor Ralf Schweiggert, from the University of Geisenheim, adds that "considering the new information we have on vascular health and the fact that hypertension increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, this method (industrially squeezed juice) could provide benefits to those who drink orange juice on a regular basis.


From the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics analyze this information with a critical magnifying glass. "I confess this is the first time I've heard hesperidine as important or central to cardiovascular health. I find it almost irresponsible to be proposed as part of a solution to such important health problems in our society. It is a strategy of the juice industry to divert attention from the main means of ensuring cardiovascular health: a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy diet (with limited consumption of juices), physical activity and no tobacco or alcohol", says Eduard Baladia, director of the Center for Analysis of Scientific Evidence of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

what is worth figuring out is whether so much hesperidine compensates for the large amount of sugar free of juices. "If we could verify that hesperidine is effective on something, the next thing would be to see if there is enough in a glass of juice to avoid a cardio or cerebrovascular event due to an atherogenic dyslipidemia. And next, assess the risk-benefit. The fruit juices, we will not forget, are drinks that provide free sugars, classified as harmful for health and whose consumption must be limited. What would weigh the benefits or potential risks the most? Is there no other way to get the benefits of antioxidants like hesperidine? The answer is the whole fruit. So let's encourage limits on juice consumption, as proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), not its consumption," argues dietitian-nutritionist.

But does the juice get fat or not?

Free sugar from juices is associated with an increased risk of drinking extra kilos, and obesity is one of the most deteriorating health agents in advanced societies. That's why it's worth a meta-analysis that sought to figure out whether taking orange juice daily increases the risk of obesity in adults or not, which was also presented at the FENS congress. The study analyses a bibliography of 17 controlled clinical trials totaling more than 200 patients, studying daily consumption of a glass of orange juice over a period of 4 to 12 weeks. the results refute that drinking a daily glass of juice has an impact on the weight,

Dietitian Carrie Ruxton explained this in her presentation: "A 100 milliliter glass of orange juice contains only 60 calories . Should we avoid taking it for fear that naturally present sugars will make us fat? Quite the opposite. Data from our meta-analysis show that taking up to 500 milliliters of orange juice a day, quantity above recommendations, has no impact on body weight.


Baladia's response is blunt. "Juices, being easy to ineatand contain free sugars (as defined by WHO), would be contributing to the supply of excess energy that could be stored in the form of fat." And it points to a subtlety of some studies that can help the results grid. "Meta-analysis says that, 'after controlling energy intake, no differences were seen.' That means they made the two groups, both those who consumed juices and those who didn't, at the end of the day ingest the same amount of energy. This setting is artificial, it doesn't happen in real life. This is called an overfitting bias and has already happened in studies made with sugary drinks. History repeats itself. In addition, WHO insists on limiting the consumption of the set of free sugars to no more than 10% of the total daily energy. In this calculation we should count on the sugars naturally present in juices, and not forget that the Western diet today is already very high in free sugars. Encouraging rather than limiting juice consumption is not an ally of public health," says dietitian-nutritionist

Is drinking juice like drinking soft drinks?

Ruxton exposes not only orange juice as a food that does not fatten, but also as a source of nutrients that goes beyond the classic vitamin C and polyphenols. "An orange juice a day can be a rich source of potassium, which helps maintain normal blood pressure," he adds. Potassium is essential, but the director of the Center for Analysis of Scientific Evidence of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics does not see the need to be exposed to the intake of free sugars: "It is enough to carry a diet based on foods of plant origin, that is the recommendation, so that polyphenols and potassium come out of our ears. In general, with a healthy and varied diet, there is no risk of deficit or potassium or polyphenols. Worried about your cardiovascular health? Eat whole fruits and vegetables, not juices.

Dispute over whether fruit juice should be classified as processed fruit or sugary drink also focused some of the discussions of the FENS congress. John Sievenpiper, of the University of Toronto, noted that, "unlike sugary drinks, fruit juice tends to show protective associations for cardiovascular health, despite containing natural sugars." It refers to the presence of antioxidant vitamins, such as C and hesperidine.

His colleague Ralf Schweiggert of Geisenheim University added that "fluctuations in blood sugar levels throughout the day are not as high when consuming juices as sugary drinks do. It could be because hesperidine slows the absorption of sugar into the digestive tract. There is also evidence that hesperidine can positively influence the composition of our gut bacteria and that it contributes to the elimination of uric acid, alleviating joint pains and delaying or even preventing the appearance of gout. This data argues that fruit juice should not be classified as a sugary drink".

Their claims are the sign that the debate is on the agenda of nutrition professionals. Whether it's in the soft drink category or not, it's not yet clear that the benefits of a glass of orange juice are worth it. I mean, we don't have to eliminate it from our lives, but we don't have to give it a leading role in diet for its nutritional benefits. "WHO says this clearly: it is in the bag of products that provide free sugars. Therefore, it is a product whose consumption should be limited. At the moment there is no more twist," concludes Baladia.