The organization finds fault with juice's high sugar content, which can increase risk of cavities in children, and lack of protein and fiber, which could lead to inappropriate weight gain. Ounce for ounce, orange juice contains about the same number of calories as sugar-sweetened soda.
"Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit for infants and children and has no essential role in healthy, balanced diets of children," the group states in its report in the journal Pediatrics.
In the report, the AAP also says juice can be part of a healthy diet for older children, but maintains that the beverage offers no additional benefits over whole fruit.
This is just the latest blow for fruit juice manufacturers, who saw sales decline from 2008 to 2013, both due to competition from beverages like tea and water, and consumer concern about high sugar content.
Researchers have been warning about overconsumption of fruit juice among children for years, and the AAP’s previous position was that kids under six years old should drink no more than a cup of juice per day. However, about a third of young children drink at least twice that, especially those from low-income families.
The perception that 100% fruit juice is a healthy beverage still prevails. The fact that so many parents were ignoring — or unaware of — the earlier advice, however, makes the impact of the AAP’s latest recommendation unclear.
While it is clear that giving fruit juice to very young children, especially in a bottle, could damage teeth, the main concern for many researchers has been juice’s high fructose content and its possible link to weight gain. A recent review may reassure parents about occasional fruit juice. Researchers found no association between heavier body weights and moderate fruit juice consumption — defined as one six to eight-ounce serving per day — for children from 7-18. They found a small amount of weight gain for those aged 1-6.
However, portion control is a significant challenge, and parents may still opt for flavored waters or other non-juice beverages for their children.
Juice manufacturers have been trying to reinvent their products as healthier drinks. It's unclear whether this study will impact those efforts, since recent efforts have been targeting millennials and young adults. According to a report from Tetra Pak, about 42% of consumers drink 100% juice daily. New juice innovations, which include adding "superfood" vegetables and nutrients or carbonation, don't seem to be targeting young children.