Fruit juices have been named a risk factor for metabolic disturbance and visceral fat gain, due partly to their high fructose content. Evidence suggests that sugar may alter the way the body burns fat. The findings of one German study, however, appear to suggest that the risks may vary depending on the timing of juice intake in relation to meals.
Some people tend to store fat around the belly rather than on the hips because of their genetic makeup.
For women particularly, getting older can affect the way the body stores fat, as they develop a higher tendency for storing fat in the abdominal cavity – medically referred to as visceral fat.
It is understood that the high fructose content of certain fruit juices contributes to insulin resistance as well as a build-up of belly fat.
This was highlighted in a 2012 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found that people who ate more fructose experienced severe decreases in metabolic rate.
For this reason, sugar-containing fruit juices have long been recognised as a risk for the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The ways in which fruit juice impacts metabolism, however, have remained less clear.
In 2018, the journal of Nutrition and Diabetes set out to probe whether the intake of orange juice with or in between meals affected energy balance and metabolic risk.
To carry out the experiment, a sample of twenty-six healthy adults partook in a four-week-long study.
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The subjects consumed orange juice – equivalent to 20 percent of the individual’s energy requirement – either together with their three daily meals or in between the meals.
Several markers were assessed, including insulin sensitivity, variations in blood sugar, insulin secretion, and body fat mass.
The results showed that in the group drinking orange juice between meals, fat mass increased and insulin sensitivity tended to decrease.
Conversely, the group drinking orange juice with their meals saw their fat mass decrease but saw a greater variability in blood sugar measurements.
Insulin secretion, triglyceride levels and insulin sensitivity did not differ between the two groups.
When compared with in-between meal consumption, intake of orange juice together with breakfast, lunch and dinner led to a loss of body fat mass when no snacks were consumed in between meals.
The researchers concluded that “in young healthy adults, a conventional three-meal structure with orange juice consumed together with meals had a favourable impact on energy balance”.
Juice consumption in between meals, however, “may contribute to gain in body fat and adverse metabolic effects”, added the authors.
What this shows is that the impact of orange juice on energy balance and metabolic risk depends on the timing of juice intake in relation to meals.
The juice used in the study was 100 percent fruit juice with pulp, containing 8.9 grams of sugar, according to the manufacturer and as verified by the researchers.
It should be noted that the quantity of orange juice consumed in the study was far greater than the average amount consumed by the general population.
The purpose of increasing intake was to achieve a measurable impact on energy balance within the short time frame of the study, the researchers explained.
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