‘Americans discerning juice sugar sources’: Jamba Juice/YouGov poll


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Photo: Jamba Juice
Photo: Jamba Juice

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Amidst headlines over high sugar levels in juice, 89% of Americans believe the natural sugars therein are good for them, according to a YouGov poll of 2,000 people commissioned by Jamba Juice.

Today saw California-based restaurant retailer Jamba announce the second round of results from a three-part survey on freshly squeezed juice and the brand claim it “confirms people are knowledgeable that not all juice drinks are made the same”.

Amidst a raft of interesting insights into US juice consciousness, the poll showed that more than half of Americans simply assume​ that something has been added to the juice they buy, while 78% read labels at least sometimes and 54% read them often or always.

Whole foods 'trumping' juice with added sugars

One in three people who read labels do so to ensure they’re not buying ‘from concentrate’ juice, while Jamba says whole foods “seem to be trumping juice drinks made with added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners”.

64% of Americans read labels to see how much sugar juice contains, the poll found, while 89% believe the natural sugars in juice (the main constituent is fructose – confusingly, sucrose is 50% fructose, 50% glucose - which occurs naturally in high concentrations in whole fruits) are good for them.

I put the following question to Jamba Juice. Although these results are positive for the image of the brand's juices, shouldn't they be a bit careful about beating the drum to the tune that 'natural fruit sugars' are wholly different from 'added sugars' such as HFCS?

I appreciate the arguments about it being part of a food matrix - fruit also has fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, etc. - but doesn't the difference end there? A sugar is a sugar is a sugar, even if fructose has a lower GI that glucose, after all.

A Jamba Juice spokeswoman told BeverageDaily.com: "All sugar (carbohydrates) have the same calories and are the same in that regard. Overall, the body metabolizes different sugars in the same way.  However, with regard to how sugar affects blood glucose levels, it pays to consider that other elements in the meal or snack will determine the rate of absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.  

"Eating whole naturally sweet foods, such as fruits, makes for a slower absorption of glucose than sipping a sugary soda.  Fiber, fat, and protein slow the uptake of sugar by the bloodstream,"​ she added.

"Most of our products have no added sugar at all. All of the sugars in these products are from the milk,  single strength juices and real whole fruit and veggies. These include the All Fruit,  Fruit And Veggie, Freshly Squeezed Juices,  Fresh Juice Blends, Jamba Kids and Make it Light product lines,"​ the spokeswoman said.

Don't play fast and loose, with juice...

These insights are interesting, especially since commentators such as Joy Dubost, a nutritionist/food scientist from the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietics point out, neither glucose nor fructose is better or worse for you, the body just processes them differently.

Writing in the Huffington Post​ last July, Dubost, and now Jamba Juice, have waded into a debate that has rumbled on ever since Dr. Robert Lustig’s 2009 lecture ‘Sugar: The Bitter Truth’ dubbed fructose "poison"​ on several grounds.

The body breaks down fructose in the liver and doesn’t provoke an insulin response, Dubost explains, although fructose opponents such as Lustig argue that high intake in the absence of glucose can lead to metabolic upset, since it leads to lower satiety and spurs increased consumption, and thus weight gain and obesity.

Conversely, glucose starts to break down in the stomach, breaks down rapidly and necessitates insulin release into the bloodstream for complete metabolism. However, diabetics suffer from hyperglycemia (spikes in blood sugar), since insulin levels are insufficient, or it does not work properly to help glucose give energy to cells.

Dubost adds that fructose occurs naturally in a high ratio versus glucose in fruit, and does so in tandem with vitamins, antioxidants and water. On the other hand, candy and desserts are “nutritionally void”.

Retuning to the Jamba Juice/YouGov poll, 80% of Americans believe fruit and/or vegetables should be the main ingredients in a juice drink, with parents of kids under 18 25% more likely than non-parents to believe that juice should contain nothing buy fruit and vegetables.

Taste is vital, but increasingly the contents are too

We’re always taught to believe that taste is the main purchase driver for consumers, but the survey found that only 7% of Americans said they didn’t care what juice contained so long as it tasted good.

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., and member of Jamba Juice’s 'Jamba Healthy Living Council', said: "It's important to remember that research links relatively large amounts of added sugar in the diet – not the naturally-occurring kind in foods such as fruit – to negative health effects, including a higher risk for heart disease."

Ward says the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend limiting foods with added sugars, such as regular soda, sports drinks, and sweets; not fruit and other foods with natural sugars, like plain milk.

By contrast, she said that foods with natural sugars provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, while most foods with added sugars are very low in nutrients and provide little but calories.

Is the message hitting home? According to the YouGov poll, 28% of Americans are drinking ‘whole food juice’ (with whole fruits or vegetables mixed in) at ‘least once a month.

Meanwhile, 89% of US adults believe that whole fruits and vegetables are better than juice, although 68% say drinking juice is more convenient.

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