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Fruit juice can be twice as harmful as soda

No one should be drinking more than 8oz. a day. Here's why.

  • A new study finds that the risk of all-cause mortality from over-consumption of fruit juice is significant.
  • Other sugared beverages are still bad for you, but too much fruit juice is actually worse.
  • Fructose, "real" or "natural," is still fructose and problematic.

While fruit juice largely retains its reputation as a healthy thing for kids to drink, it's not exactly news that it can contain just as much sugar as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) like soda. Savvy parents and caregivers know it should be dispensed only in moderation. Along with all that sugar, of course, come beneficial vitamins, and previous research has linked the antioxidants and flavonoids in orange juice, in particular, to preventing cancer. (Not everyone agrees that the value of antioxidants has been proven.) In addition, brains of all ages consume the lion's share of a body's available sugar for energy.

Now, however, a study published in Jama Network Open from Emory University, the University of Alabama, and Cornell University, finds that the consumption of fruit juice more than doubles the risk of "all-around mortality" over SSBs.

Comparing oranges to oranges

Giphy

The study was concerned with the effect of fruit-juice consumption on "all-around mortality." Earlier studies have examined the possible link between juice consumption and risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) such as dyslipidemia, diabetes, and obesity. So the current study's intent was to see whether or not juice consumption similarly increased the chance of mortality in general.

The data analyzed in the study was drawn from the nationwide REGARDS (REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke) study and involved 13,440 adults with a mean age of 63.6. The cohort was 59.3 percent male/40.7 percent female, and 68.9 percent were non-Hispanic white. Seventy percent were technically overweight or obese.

REGARDS researchers re-interviewed subjects every 6 months until 2013, and mortality events were reported by family members and derived from private as well as public medical records. There were ultimately 1,000 all-cause deaths among participants, as well as 168 CHD-related deaths.

Subjects self-reported their previous year's consumption of SSBs — such as sodas, soft drinks, or fruit-flavored drinks — and naturally sweet 100 percent fruit juices. The possible responses ranged from "never" to "every day." They were also asked to report everything else they ate as a number of units or as portion sizes. The researchers then calculated the percentage of each participant's total energy (TE) consumption and the percentage of that was derived from SSBs or fruit juice. Official U.S. Dietary Guidelines, and those from the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association allowed the study's authors to classify these percentages as low (<5 percent), medium (5 – <10 percent), and high (≥10 percent).

Not so sweet

Image source: Collin, et al

On average, participants got 8.4 percent of their energy from SSBs and juice — that's just below the high-consumption threshold. After making adjustments for other cardiovascular risk factors, those who ingested above 10 percent of their energy from SSBs and fruit drinks had a 44 percent greater risk of CHD mortality and 14 percent of all-cause mortality. Looking at fruit juice alone, though, left researchers with their conclusion that each additional 12 ounces above 10 percent of your TE raises your overall risk of dying by a whopping 24 percent. By comparison, SSBs increase it by 11 percent.

Oh, fructose

Image source: molekuul_be / Shutterstock

The main issue seems to be the digestion of fructose when too much juice is consumed. The researchers suggest, "The metabolism of fructose, which is unique from all other sugars, occurs unregulated and almost exclusively in the liver. Fructose consumption is known to alter blood lipid levels, markers of inflammation and blood pressure, while high glucose consumption has been associated with insulin resistance and diabetes, independent of weight status." In a commentary accompanying the study, experts from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health note that "Although the sugar in 100 percent fruit juices is naturally occurring rather than added, once metabolized, the biological response is essentially the same."

What to do about this information

Image source: Roxana Bashyrova/Shutterstock

Other research has shown that a moderate level of juice consumption may lower one's risk of CHD problems. At the same time, the high level of sugar in juice will continue to pose a threat as a potential trigger for weight gain, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and other serious health issues.

The guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that juice intake be limited to:

  • 4 to 6 ounces a day for children aged 1–6
  • 8 ounces a day for children over 7, adolescents, and adults

In addition, the Academy recommends consuming only 100 percent fruit juice, without added sugar, in both standard beverages smoothies.

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What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth

Could this former river island in the Indus have inspired Tolkien to create Cair Andros, the ship-shaped island in the Anduin river?

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
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  • J.R.R. Tolkien himself hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
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Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

An eight-metre-long Whale shark swims with other fish at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium on February 26, 2010 in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
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A massive star has mysteriously vanished, confusing astronomers

A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.

Image source: ESO/L. Calçada
Surprising Science
  • The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
  • It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
  • Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.

A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?

The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

So, em...

Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.

In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.

Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."

The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.

Celestial sleuthing

In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.

Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."

Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.

Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."

Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."

Or...

A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.

LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.

Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."

The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:

"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."

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