Just 4 ounces of juice per day may be putting children at risk for the harmful effects of heavy metals.
It’s no headline that commercially-made juice isn’t really that healthy for kids. A juice box may pack in some vitamins, but is lacking belly-filling fiber. It will also contain a decent amount of sugar (some of which may be from added sweeteners), often much more than the fresh whole fruit itself.
Even with this awareness, juice seems to be the “go-to” beverage of choice for children and many are drinking well beyond the recommended four ounces or less per day.
Consumer Reports recently analyzed 45 fruit juices from a variety of popular brands. They found worrisome levels of heavy metals in nearly half of the samples, even in those that were organic. Heavy metals found include inorganic arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
Metal Levels In Juice?
The heavy metals found in the juice samples are certainly naturally-occurring in our food, soil, air, and water. At one time, many of them were used as pesticides. I recently read that nearly 70 million pounds of lead arsenate and calcium arsenate were used on United States crops from 1900 to 1980. Both of these heavy metals are fairly stable in the soil and many residues remain (why you should never forage for mushrooms in an old commercial apple orchard!).
Heavy metals are also abundant in pollution.
At this time, there is not much regulation on the limit of heavy metals in juice. A 10-parts-per-billion limit of arsenic in juice has been proposed (based on the limit set for drinking water), but nothing has been put in place by the FDA just yet.
What is the Danger of Metals in Juice?
While heavy metal exposure is not beneficial for anyone, exposure in children is especially problematic as their brain is still developing. Lead exposure has been linked to anemia, heart conditions and fertility issues. Arsenic exposure has been linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease. Cadmium exposure may weaken bones and increase the risk of kidney disease.
No matter how you put it, elevated exposure to heavy metals is not good news and significant accumulation can result in poisoning.
What Can We Do?
My intention with this message is not to spread fear, but to increase awareness. If we are aware of the problem, we can take steps to reduce any risks for our children.
Here are a few ideas:
– Consider reducing consumption of commercially-made juice blends or grape juice in particular (these were found to have the highest levels of heavy metals in them per the report).
– Prepare and offer homemade juices and smoothies.
– Dilute juice with water when serving to your children. Try 1 or 2 ounces of juice in 2 ounces of water. You can also make juice ice cubes and pop 1 or 2 in the glass of water instead.
– Offer fresh fruit instead of juice.
– Opt for water. If your children aren’t a fan, try the third suggestion and gradually reduce the amount of juice offered over time.
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