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Is Fruit Juice as Unhealthy as Sugary Soda?

Health + Wellness
Brogues Cozens-Mcneelance / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Alina Petre, MS, RD

Fruit juice is generally perceived as healthy and far superior to sugary soda.


Many health organizations have issued official statements encouraging people to reduce their intake of sugary drinks, and several countries have gone as far as implementing a tax on sugary soda.

Yet, some people suggest that juice isn't as healthy as it's made out to be and just as detrimental to your health as sugary soda.

This article examines the latest scientific evidence to compare fruit juice and soda.

Both Are High in Sugar

One of the main reasons some people consider fruit juice as unhealthy as sugary soda is the sugar content of these beverages.

Both soda and 100% fruit juice pack around 110 calories and 20–26 grams of sugar per cup (240 ml).

Research consistently shows a link between sugary drinks and a higher risk of illness, such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and heart disease, as well as a higher risk of premature death.

Due to their similar sugar contents, some people have started grouping juices and soda together, suggesting that they should be avoided to an equal extent. However, soda and juice are unlikely to affect your health in the same ways.

For instance, soda tends to increase your risk of disease in a dose-dependent manner. This means that the more soda you drink, the higher your risk of disease — even if you only drink small amounts.

On the other hand, drinking small amounts of juice — specifically less than 5 ounces (150 ml) per day — may lower your risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Only higher intakes appear to be detrimental to your health.

That said, the health benefits of juice only apply to 100% fruit juice — not to sugar-sweetened fruit beverages.

Summary

Fruit juice and soda contain similar amounts of sugar. Still, soda is likely harmful to your health, regardless of the amount you consume, whereas fruit juice may only increase your risk of disease when drunk in large amounts.

Both May Lead to Weight Gain

Both fruit juice and sugary soda may increase your risk of weight gain.

That's because both are rich in calories yet low in fiber, a nutrient that helps reduce hunger and promote feelings of fullness.

Hence, the calories consumed from either soda or fruit juice are unlikely to fill you up as much as an equal number of calories consumed from a fiber-rich food with the same amount of sugar, such as a piece of fruit.

Also, drinking your calories — rather than eating them — may increase your risk of weight gain. Experts believe this is likely because most people do not compensate for these liquid calories by eating fewer calories from other foods — unless they make a conscious effort.

That said, only excess calories lead to weight gain. Therefore, it's important to mention that consuming small amounts of calorie-containing beverages won't automatically lead to weight gain in most people.

Summary

Fruit juice and soda are rich in calories yet low in fiber, making them an inefficient way to reduce hunger and keep you full. They may also lead to excess calorie intake, further promoting weight gain.

Fruit Juice is Richer in Nutrients

Fruit juice contains vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds that sugary soda typically lacks.

Against popular belief, 1/2 cup (120 ml) of fruit juice is just as rich in most vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins, as the same quantity of fresh fruit.

Keep in mind that many nutrients degrade with time. Therefore, freshly squeezed juice likely contains higher vitamin and mineral levels than other juice varieties. Still, all 100% juices have higher nutrient levels than sugary soda.

Fruit juice likewise contains beneficial plant compounds, such as carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids, which can help neutralize free radicals and reduce your risk of disease.

This may explain why various types of fruit juices are linked to health benefits, ranging from improved immunity and brain function to lower inflammation, blood pressure, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

Yet, these benefits are likely best achieved when fruit juice is consumed in amounts up to 5 ounces (150 ml) per day.

Summary

Fruit juice is rich in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds that soda lacks. Regular intake of small amounts of juice has been linked to a variety of health benefits.

The Bottom Line

Fruit juice and sugary soda are similar in some aspects yet widely different in others.

Both are low in fiber and sources of sugar and liquid calories. When consumed in large amounts, both have been linked to an increased risk of obesity and illness, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

However, unlike sugary soda, fruit juice contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds that protect you from disease.

Therefore, when consumed in small amounts, fruit juice remains the clear winner.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.

We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.