Historically 100% fruit juices have been associated with a healthy diet. But new research has found a link between drinking fruit juice and cancer.
Drinking just one small glass of all-natural fruit juices may increase your risk of developing cancer by as much as 18%, a large-scale study has found.
The study, conducted by the French Public Health Agency and the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN) and published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), looked at 100% fruit juices compared to other other sugary beverages more typically considered unhealthy such as cola, lemonade and energy drinks.
Researchers observed the consumption of 3300 food and beverages in 101,257 people – 21% male and 79% female.
The research spanned a five-year period, starting when the participants were aged 42 on average.
Risks associated with fruit juice consumption
The results showed a link between both types of drinks and cancer, due to the large amount of sugar in both.
“When the group of sugary drinks was split into 100% fruit juices and other sugary drinks, the consumption of both beverage types was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer,” reads the study conclusion.
For those participants who drank an average of 92.9ml of fruit juice, or sugary drinks, a day, increasing this by just 100ml – so altogether less than a small 200ml glass – increased overall cancer risk by 18%.
Among women, researchers found drinking the same amount was linked to a 22% increased risk of specifically breast cancer in women.
For those people who drank the most fruit juice or sugary drinks, at 185.8ml per day on average, consuming an extra 100ml per day – just over a large 250ml glass of fruit juice – was linked to a 30% increased risk of all cancers.
Among women with the highest fruit juice intake, breast cancer risk increased by 37%.
‘Further research needed’
Dr Graham Wheeler, senior statistician at Cancer Research UK, said further research was needed before we could be assured fruit juices and other sugar-containing drinks could be linked to cancer.
He said: "Participants were followed on average for about five years, and 22 participants per 1,000 developed some form of cancer.
"So this means if 1,000 similar participants increased their daily sugary drink intake by 100ml, we'd expect the number of cancer cases to rise from 22 to 26 per 1,000 people over a five-year period.
"However, this assumes that there is a genuine causal link between sugary drink intake and developing cancer, and this still needs further research."
Susannah Brown, acting head of research interpretation at the World Cancer Research Fund, said the charity's own research had shown a link between obesity – which is associated with drinking too many sugary drinks – and cancer.
But is it obesity or specifically the sugary drinks that cause cancer? Brown suggested further research was needed before we know.
"More research is needed to understand if there is a direct link between sugary drinks and cancer,” she added.
"For now, we recommend not drinking sugary drinks to reduce your risk of weight gain and therefore cancer. Instead, rely on water to quench your thirst."