Generations were raised to believe orange juice fights off colds, boosts the immune system, tones the skin and protects against cancer. Yet in the topsy-turvy world of health advice, what’s good for you one day, turns out to be bad for you the next.
So if fruit juice turns out to be such a devil in disguise, why have we all been led to believe it was so healthy for so long?
The idea goes back to the 1920s, when American nutritionist Elmer McCollum blamed a condition called acidosis, an excess of acid in the blood, on diets rich in bread and meat. His solution was lots of lettuce and -- paradoxically -- citrus fruits.
At the time orange juice was not hugely popular, but juice got an even bigger boost thanks to World War II when the U.S. Government wanted a new way to get a product rich in vitamin C to troops overseas. It poured money into research.
In 1947 -- just in time for the post-war consumer boom -- scientists invented a way to remove water from juice and freeze the concentrate into a palatable product.
The blocks of this concentrate could be sold to the new fridge-owning U.S. consumers or stored by manufacturers for months at a time, and sales exploded.
It's All About Taste Consistency
Ever wonder why commercial orange juice--even the premium, not-from-concentrate, "100-percent pure" juice kind--tastes the same each time you buy it, but doesn't taste exactly like a freshly peeled orange?
Turns out there's a lot more to making juice than simply squeezing some citrus. As part of the mass-production process, big-name brands like Tropicana, Minute Maid, Simply Orange, and Florida's Natural add artificial flavouring in order to make sure your juice tastes consistent from carton to carton--and to make sure it tastes like oranges.
"It really rocks people's world to learn that most orange juice is not a fresh product," says Alisa Hamilton, author of "Squeezed: What You Don't Want to Know About Orange Juice"
Pasteurized, not-from-concentrate orange juice takes up a lot of storage space. In order to keep it from spoiling without adding chemical preservatives, the companies "deaerate" (or strip the oxygen out of) the juice. (Another surprise: During production, deaerated juice often sit in million-gallon tanks for as long as a year before it hits supermarket shelves.) The process strips the juice of flavour, which has to be added afterwards.
Meanwhile in the UK, war babies had been given rose hip, blackcurrant and concentrated orange juice by the Government as a cheap nutrition supplement in the 1940s. This continued into the 1950s, seeding the idea in a generation of baby boomers that juice is healthy.
By the 1980s orange juice was being marketed not just as a health drink, but also as the key to a stylish, modern life -- a status it enjoys today.
But while the juice in the supermarket is often sold as ‘natural’ or ‘fresh’, it is usually anything but.
Concentrating juice doesn’t just remove water, it also removes the flavour. After it has been reconstituted, manufacturers add these ‘flavour packs’ and cocktails of chemicals which restore ‘natural’ oranginess.
Not From Concentrate?
You may think ‘not from concentrate’ juice means a more authentic product. You’d be wrong.
Manufacturers say they help give their product a consistent flavour. They also explain why juice in cartons doesn’t taste like fresh juice.
‘Naturalness’ isn’t the only dubious claim made for juice. For decades, health gurus, and some doctors, have claimed the vitamin C in juice fights common colds.
Helen Bond, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, says: ‘People have lost sight of how much sugar is in food and portion sizes have got bigger. A 150ml glass provides one of your five a day and anything more than that doesn’t count. But measure people’s glasses and they are often 250ml.
‘Juice provides a lot of vitamins and minerals, but unlike fresh fruit you don’t get the healthy fibre.’
Doctors say the huge volume of sugar in our diet is contributing to the obesity epidemic, causing heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
A shocking investigation has also revealed that some of the best known brands of apple juice contain arsenic
American apple juice is made from apple concentrate, 60% of which is imported from China. Other countries may use pesticides that contain arsenic, a heavy metal known to cause cancer and heart disease.
Findings of a Consumer Reports investigation
about arsenic and lead levels in apple juice and grape juice have prompted the organization to call for government standards to limit consumers’ exposure to these toxins.
Weaning populations off fruit juice may be difficult. Market research firm Mintel says 83 percent of us drink fruit juice at least once a week, while 76 percent believe fruit juice to be healthy.
But if you need motivation when you sit down to breakfast, remember this: there is more sugar in a 250ml glass of fruit juice than in a large bowl of Frosties with milk. The sugar is not all natural either.
Fruit juices of any kind are rarely 100% juice and specific additives to extend shelf life can be hazardous to your health and your family.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.