Why does juice get a pass in the battle against sugary drinks?

Three pediatrics professors teamed up for an editorial in The New York Times imploring readers to lump juice into the unhealthy beverage category alongside soda.

Although juice has been marketed to young children with labeling that touts “100 percent fruit juice” and the vitamins it contains, a 12-ounce glass of orange juice contains about the same amount of sugar as a can of soda, the pediatricians said. Fruit juice also contains more concentrated sugar and calories than solid fruit and less fiber.

Erika R. Cheng, Lauren G. Fiechtner and Aaron E. Carroll also said juice can serve as a “gateway beverage,” giving children tastes for sugary drinks that would make them more likely to become habitual soda drinkers as they age. Excessive consumption of sugary beverages has been linked to obesity, tooth cavities and higher blood pressure and cholesterol.

The authors recommended parents serve water to their children and encourage them to eat whole fruit instead. Likewise, schools and daycare centers should stop serving juice and public health efforts shouldn’t equate fruit juice with whole fruit, which only furthers the perception that drinking juice is healthy.

“It’s much easier to prevent obesity than it is to reverse it,” the authors wrote. “We need to teach kids how to eat healthier when they’re young so that they develop good habits to carry on for the rest of their lives. In the past decade or so, we have succeeded in recognizing the harms of sugary beverages like soda. We can’t keep pretending that juice is different.”

Read the full editorial below: