WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Roughly one-third of all fruit consumption by U.S. children is fruit juices, with children under the age of 5 more likely to have juice than whole fruits -- which researchers in a new study said means they are not getting the full range of nutrients and health benefits they could be.
Apples were found to be the most popular fruit, with a total of 12 fruit or fruit juices making up about 86 percent of all the fruit consumed by children, and most children consuming about 1.24 cups of fruit per day.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new study sheds light on differences between children and their tendencies toward fruit.
"Fruits are an important source of nutrients that promote health and protect against chronic disease," researchers said in a press release. "Researchers found that fruit choices varied according to age and race but did not vary for gender. These findings provide some insight into what fruits children are eating and socioeconomic factors that may influence what fruit children want to eat and are being provided to eat."
Researchers analyzed data on 3,129 children between the ages of 2 and 19 between 2011 and 2012 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
More than half of all children, about 53 percent, consume whole fruits each day, while about 34 percent consume 100 percent fruit juice. Of the fruits children consume, apples, apple juice, citrus juice, and bananas were about half.
More than 29 percent of all fruit consumption comes from apples; 18.9 percent was whole apples and 10.3 percent was apple juice. Just over 86 percent of fruit consumption is made up of 12 items. The ten which follow apples and apple juice on that list are citrus juice, other juice, bananas, melons, citrus, berries, peaches, nectarines, grapes and dried fruit.
Researchers found that apples appeal to nearly all children regardless of ethnicity. Whole apples comprised 21.2 percent of fruit consumption for Hispanic children, 19.2 percent for Asian-American children, 17.2 percent for black children, and 18.5 percent for white children. Apple juice adds between 7 and 11 percent of daily fruit intake to those numbers.
While fruit juices are healthier than some beverages and can deliver some portion of necessary nutrients, researchers said that most juices are dominated by water and sugar. The beverages also are not nearly as satisfying, are over-consumed, and over time can lead to weight gain and obesity.
"It's simultaneously horrifying and not at all shocking that a full third of all 'fruit' being consumed by children is in juice form," Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, told Forbes. "Juice is not sating and lacks the fiber and nutrition of whole fruits. Juice is primarily water with a great deal of free sugar and hence is more fairly compared with soda, than the fruit it once came from."
The study is published in Pediatrics.