Apple Juice May Be Worse than Sugar Water

Apple Juice May Be Worse than Sugar Water
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Why the spike in antioxidant levels in our bloodstream after drinking apple juice might not be a good thing.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Just as you can measure the amount of antioxidants in a cup of apple juice, you can measure the antioxidant level in someone’s bloodstream. If you drink that apple juice, within minutes, the antioxidant power of your blood starts to rise. You get a nice peak, and then it comes back down. If you drink water, nothing happens—stays the same, down around 10. First, note the scale here. This is in the same units, using the same test as in our 3,000+ food study.

Compared to most foods in the produce aisle, the antioxidant level in our bodies is kind of pitiful. We don’t even make it up to iceberg lettuce. Not much better than meat, actually. But then again, meat is what we’re made out of, so I guess it’s not that surprising. Now, your level does rise a few points when we eat healthy foods. So, if ,you know, stuff Babe with some blueberries right before you whack him, you may get a healthier pork chop. 

Apple juice is a long way from blueberries, though. Basically, just sugar water, fitting in right about here. Hardly even has any vitamin C. So, why was there that nice spike in blood antioxidant level, drinking some apple juice? Well, must be the phenolic phytonutrients. But, look, we’re not talking purple grape juice here, or cranberry, or pomegranate; we’re talking apple.

And, indeed, when you measure polyphenol levels in the blood, here’s what water does, compared to three types of apple juice. No difference. So, what could it be? 

Turns out you can get a similar spike in antioxidant activity by feeding people essentially straight sugar water. Recently, researchers at the Polish institute of fruit and flower farming—sounds like a nice place to work—figured it out.

It appears to be the uric acid, not the phytonutrients, that are responsible for the rise in blood antioxidant activity after apple juice consumption. Remember, fructose leads to uric acid production, and uric acid, for all the terrible things it does, has some antioxidant activity.

So, the reason we see this nice spike in antioxidant activity when we drink apple juice is not because we’re absorbing antioxidants into our bloodstream. It’s not because of a good thing; it’s because of all this excess uric acid waste produced when you take in that much sugar. And, you know, table sugar is only 50% fructose; high fructose corn syrup only 55%. The sugar in apple juice is two-thirds fructose.

So, apple juice, in this respect, may be even worse than sugar water.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to SuzifooPacHD.comKrasowitweatherrockeyeDmitry Kichenko via flickr; Brian0918 and Arad via Wikimedia; and the National Cancer Institute

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Just as you can measure the amount of antioxidants in a cup of apple juice, you can measure the antioxidant level in someone’s bloodstream. If you drink that apple juice, within minutes, the antioxidant power of your blood starts to rise. You get a nice peak, and then it comes back down. If you drink water, nothing happens—stays the same, down around 10. First, note the scale here. This is in the same units, using the same test as in our 3,000+ food study.

Compared to most foods in the produce aisle, the antioxidant level in our bodies is kind of pitiful. We don’t even make it up to iceberg lettuce. Not much better than meat, actually. But then again, meat is what we’re made out of, so I guess it’s not that surprising. Now, your level does rise a few points when we eat healthy foods. So, if ,you know, stuff Babe with some blueberries right before you whack him, you may get a healthier pork chop. 

Apple juice is a long way from blueberries, though. Basically, just sugar water, fitting in right about here. Hardly even has any vitamin C. So, why was there that nice spike in blood antioxidant level, drinking some apple juice? Well, must be the phenolic phytonutrients. But, look, we’re not talking purple grape juice here, or cranberry, or pomegranate; we’re talking apple.

And, indeed, when you measure polyphenol levels in the blood, here’s what water does, compared to three types of apple juice. No difference. So, what could it be? 

Turns out you can get a similar spike in antioxidant activity by feeding people essentially straight sugar water. Recently, researchers at the Polish institute of fruit and flower farming—sounds like a nice place to work—figured it out.

It appears to be the uric acid, not the phytonutrients, that are responsible for the rise in blood antioxidant activity after apple juice consumption. Remember, fructose leads to uric acid production, and uric acid, for all the terrible things it does, has some antioxidant activity.

So, the reason we see this nice spike in antioxidant activity when we drink apple juice is not because we’re absorbing antioxidants into our bloodstream. It’s not because of a good thing; it’s because of all this excess uric acid waste produced when you take in that much sugar. And, you know, table sugar is only 50% fructose; high fructose corn syrup only 55%. The sugar in apple juice is two-thirds fructose.

So, apple juice, in this respect, may be even worse than sugar water.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to SuzifooPacHD.comKrasowitweatherrockeyeDmitry Kichenko via flickr; Brian0918 and Arad via Wikimedia; and the National Cancer Institute

Doctor's Note

This is the third in a video series about sugar. Be sure to see Miocene Meteorites and Uric Acid and  Flesh and Fructose.

The antioxidant comparison is taken from my video Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. The comparison among juices is from Best Fruit Juice.

There is actually a fruit that’s healthier in juice form. See The Fruit Whose Juice is Healthier.

Conventional apple juice may also contain contaminants (Fungal Toxins in Apples), so one should probably avoid apple juice. But, what about apples? Find out in Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer.

For more context, check out my associated blog post, Apple Peels Turn On Anticancer Genes.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

42 responses to “Apple Juice May Be Worse than Sugar Water

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  1. The chart at the end of the video shows agave nectar as highest in fructose. Previous videos have shown agave to not be a healthful sweetener, but didn’t specify why. Is this the reason?




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    1. Agave Nectar is mostly fructose. Fructose is converted to uric acid, fat, and other stuff you don’t want.

      “Agave nectar consists primarily of fructose and glucose.
      One source gives 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another gives 56%
      fructose and 20% glucose. These differences probably reflect variation
      from one vendor of agave nectar to another.[6][7]

      The impact of agave nectar on blood sugar (as measured by its glycemic index and glycemic load) are comparable to fructose,[8][9] which has a much lower glycemic index and glycemic load than table sugar (sucrose).[10][11] However, consumption of large amounts of fructose can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome,[12] hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation.[13][14][15]”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave_nectar




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    1. I have the same question. I don’t know if you are talking about apple juice from the grocery store or organic apple juices I juiced myself?




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    2. How about an apple smoothie? Then you get the juice and the apple but in the liquid form. Nothing like a blender-made breakfast fruit smoothie!




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  2. The link to Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer is no longer available Doc. I’d like to also know if juicing apples along with other fruits and veggies is still an ok route to get our kids to consume.




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    1. Got the answer, we’re not talking about home-extracted organic apple juice…

      Cloudy Apple Juice Preparation. The cloudy apple juice was produced from the 2006 apple harvest. Before being processed, apples were stored for 9 months in a commercial storage room under controlled atmospheric conditions containing 2% O2 and 2% CO2 at a temperature of 1.5uC. Fruits were washed and disintegrated using Frymaperforated disc mill Ascorbic acid solution was dosed (200 mg/kg of apples) into the mill funnel during grinding. The resulting mash was directly pressed on a hydraulic pack press . Raw juice was centrifuged using continuous flow disk stack centrifuge at 1500 rpm and citric acid (3 g/L of product) was added. Hot (96–98uC), cloudy apple juice was placed in 0.25-L screw-cap glass bottles using plate heat exchanger. After 30 minutes, the bottles were cooled in tap water and then stored in the dark at 4uC for 4 weeks until use.




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    2. The difference is crucial when you are talking about nutrition. The store bought apple juice is processed (fibers including other nutritional items are removed) than cooked (pasteurized). Cooking destroys all the enzymes and degrades the vitamins (destroying some). Blending whole apples or fruits gives you 100% of the vitamins, minerals, and micro-nutrients for good health.




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  3. Yes, I think all of us juicers need to know ! Most Green juices I make , I also throw in an apple. Is this bad now?? What is good for you anymore?? Seems like so many studies come out daily about things that you thought where good , now being bad. I am confused.




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    1. If you don’t have Gout and you are healthy you are OK to have a few juices, but the healthiest way to live is consuming a Whole Food plant based diet. Whole food is the key phrase because when you grind up food you are now processing it. This processing of apples takes the sugar out of the plants cell and causes spikes of glucose that are hard on the body. If you chew it however you will not get as high of a spike in blood glucose (protecting your body) and still get the benefits of the Whole apple.




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    2. Juicing should always be a treat, like any sweet water. The whole food is always best. That is not news. Our bodies love all that wonderful fiber. It’s how our insides function to help take that good sweet stuff through our intestines to our cells. Eat your greens….or make a smoothie to utilize the fiber. There are a lot of nay sayers about smoothies, but better to get it all in you. Just keep it simple and vegan. Lots of water and voila….Health.




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    3. you could switch to green smoothies: all the nutrition and the fiber. i personally cant physically eat very much (digestive issues) so green smoothies are the next best things, its a whole food, just kind of “pre chewed” lol




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  4. I sometimes used to get back pain, slower heart rate, and exhaustion from drinking store bought apple juice. Sometimes got the same with grapes though. Always passed within 30 minutes or so, then I felt great.




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  5. Dr Greger, would you recommend to drink any store-bought juice at all? For example 100% grape or orange juices seem not that bad, or do they act as sugary drinks in our bodies? Thank you.




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    1. I would avoid fruit juice in general although under some circumstances such as a diabetic having a low sugar incident they can be very useful.The healthiest beverage is tea see… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-healthiest-beverage/. Certainly the way to go if you are traveling on a plane see… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/healthiest-airplane-beverage-2/ although if I’m traveling late in the day I bring my own caffeine free tea bags (I like chocolate peppermint) as airlines don’t have caffeine free tea bags. Although based on the healthiest tea maybe I should go with red or wild berry zinger see…. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/better-than-green-tea/.




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    1. Would not make much difference except mainly in taste as I imagine the fructose levels would be the same. The problem with juicing is it throws out the fiber(good for you) and the peel(where the phytonutrients are located). Whole food is best but blending is better than juicing.




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      1. Fresh juices and prossesed juices are very different, fresh juices are more nutritional in general, and apples in general are high in fructose, juiced ore not. Should one refrain from eating apples? Whole apples contain fiber, that gives you a feeling of fullness, that’s why you couldn’t probably eat 10 apples, but you can easily drink them. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12403253)




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  6. Great message. So glad I have always loved the whole fruit and while other mothers were peeling their little darling’s apples, mine was giving us whole apples. A wonderful treat! Thanks Mom!




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  7. For a popular and helpful lecture on sugar metabolism, see the UC Berkely YouTube channel (UCTV: “Sugar the Bitter Truth,” Dr. Robert H. Lustig). According to Dr. Lustig, sugar reduces to two harmful components: lipids and uric acid. Once I eliminated sugar and animal fats from my diet–favoring a whole foods, plant-based diet–my gout attacks are now infrequent and minor. Also, uric acid stores in our body fat, so weight loss releases uric acid in quantities too rich for the blood and kidneys, which triggers a gout attack. This accounts for my current episodes since I don’t eat animal protein or eat refined fructose. The KEY to sugar metabolism from whole foods is FIBER (along with nutrition). The whole fruit and vegetable incorporate within them the vehicles for eliminating uric acid through the intestines. Thirty percent of uric acid is eliminated through the intestines–if possible–while the other 70% is eliminated through the kidneys–if possible. By the way, gout reveals itself as arthritis in the extremities. Imagine kidney stones in the joints.




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    1. I think it is important to be specific when using the term sugar. Glucose, Fructose, Table Sugar(one molecule of Glucose and Fructose). Dr. Lustig is very clear that fructose is the sugar metabolized to uric acid, inflammatory aldehydes and fats. In addition to uric acid the consumption of animal protein contributes to the formation of kidney stones. Congratulations about improving your diet and avoiding gouty attacks. Whole foods containing fructose, glucose and sucrose such as fruits are the same as the conventional chemicals but the other ingredients make their absorption and handling different. Good luck in eliminating the remainder of your attacks. Hopefully as the science keeps coming in we will better understand significant clinical situations such as gout.




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  8. What do you think about Water Kefir? Most folks make it homemade, like myself. It use unrefined Sucanat or whole sugar in water with the ‘grains’ which are 43 strains beneficial cultures. In two days you have a probiotic packed drink. Some times I make by mason jar mixture with a can of Coconut Milk (canned) added to the 2 day concoction. The bacteria usually eats almost all the sugar. What do you think of this compared to other sugar drinks? The sugars are whole (just crushed drained sugar cane that has been dried) it has all the vitamins and minerals of the cane. Actually, it would be neat if you could do a piece on Water Kefir and its benefits. There is also a culture called Milk Kefir but it has added milk, uckkk, with its added de-benefits. Thank you




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    1. I’ve also been curious what the science has to say about water kefir. I’m also very interested in hearing about any evidence that compares kefir to rejuvalac. I make rejuvalac for nut cheeses. But someone told me the other day that she thought that water kefir tasted better than rejuvalac and that she was able to drink it straight compared to rejuvalac (which other people also drink straight).

      I was wondering how the various bacteria would compare. Of course, I presume that would depend a lot on what bacteria happen to be in the air and on ones grains – at least for rejuvalac.

      Who knows, maybe Dr. Greger will find some studies to report to us in the future.




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      1. I hope he does. Rejuvalac is fermented like all the others. While Rejuvalac and sour krout type ferments are from open are bacteria, they are, in that way, different from the age old 40-60 strain bacteria cultures that has been passed down from generations to generations that are used to prepare Kim chi, Kefir, and Kombacha. They have tried to locate the first original ‘mother’ Kefir grains (they are all very similar even from around the world) and believe they are back as far as Egypt in the Biblical days. ALL Fermented foods are chucked full of Vit B and Vit K2. Excellent additions to any diet which ever one you choose to eat. I have friends who LOVE Rejuvalac cheese, and I can tell you homemade Coconut milk water kevir is so good that it is addictive :)




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