That fruit smoothie you just bought from the local juice bar may not be nearly as healthy as you’d like to believe.
Two researchers responsible for highlighting the health risks behind consuming sugary soft drinks now say that fruit smoothies may be just as bad for you as soda since they contain the same amount of sugar.
“Smoothies and fruit juices are the new danger,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Professor Barry Popkin told the Guardian. “It's kind of the next step in the evolution of the battle.”
Popkin and his research partner George Bray say that since their 2004 soft drink study was released, Pepsi, Coke and other soda manufacturers have been buying fruit smoothie companies and marketing their products as healthier alternatives.
“It's a really big part of it because in every country they've been replacing soft drinks with fruit juice and smoothies as the new healthy beverage,” Popkin told the Guardian. “So you will find that Coke and Pepsi have bought dozens [of fruit juice companies] around the globe."
However, Popkin says these drinks are not in fact healthier and that they on average contain the same amount of sugar as a regular soda. Further, he says that smoothies do not actually provide the same health benefits as simply eating a whole fruit or vegetable.
“So pulped up smoothies do nothing good for us, but do give us the same amount of sugar as four to six oranges or a large coke. It is deceiving,” Popkin said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about half of the U.S. population consumes at least one sugary drink per day on average. Those statistics are higher for lower income individuals, minors and minorities. The CDC also says the dramatic rise in soft drink consumption over the past 30 years has played a direct role in rising obesity rates and cases of diabetes.
A recent Harvard study found that a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 15-18 teaspoons of sugar. The same study says U.S. beverage manufacturers spend about $3.2 billion dollars each year marketing these drinks to children .
In fact, the near omnipresence of sugary drinks is so prevalent that a June 2013 study from the National Institutes of Health claims that removing soda machines from schools would not have a significant impact on the number of drinks consumed by kids.
However, at least one fruit smoothie manufacturer is standing by their claims. “Smoothies are made entirely from fruit and therefore contain the same amount of sugars that you would find in an equivalent amount of whole fruit,” reads a statement from fruit smoothie manufacturer Innocent, which is primarily owned by the Coca-Cola Company.
Despite his criticism of the fruit smoothie industry, Popkin has in the past praised companies like Coke for reducing the amount of sugar in the products offering lower sized portion options to the consumer.