Objective. To determine whether excessive consumption of fruit juice is a contributing factor in nonorganic failure to thrive in early childhood.
Methods. Eight patients, aged 14 to 27 months, referred for failure to thrive were evaluated by medical history, physical examination, and biochemical assessment. Growth patterns were reviewed and anthropometric measurements including skinfold thickness and midarm circumference were obtained. Diet history included 3-day food records and 24-hour diet recalls. An open-ended interview explored factors associated with fruit juice consumption. Breath hydrogen testing of fructose, sorbitol, or fruit juice was performed in three children who had a history of diarrhea or gastrointestinal complaints. Nutritional intervention focused on reducing fruit juice consumption and increasing the energy and nutrient density of the children's diets.
Results. In each case, deterioration of weight and linear growth progression coincided with excessive juice consumption. All children exhibited weights <5th percentile and five also had lengths <-5th percentile. Weight-for-length deficits ranged from 11% to 25%. Two patients demonstrated low arm muscle mass and five children had diminished fat stores. Organic disease was ruled out in all cases. Three children had iron deficiency. The children's diets were hypocaloric, providing 78% to 92% of recommended energy intake for age and weight. Dietary intake included considerable juice consumption (12 to 30 oz/d). Fruit juice, primarily apple juice, contributed 25% to 60% of daily energy intake. As a result, food consumption was reduced; lowering dietary protein, fat, and micronutrient intakes. Excessive juice was consumed for various reasons including children's preferences, parental health beliefs, behavioral feeding difficulties, and financial considerations. Breath hydrogen testing revealed malabsorption of fructose and/or sorbitol. After nutritional intervention, dietary intake increased to 96% to 116% of recommended intakes. Weight gain increased significantly in the first month and persisted for follow-up of 5 to 18 months.
Conclusions. These findings indicate that large intakes of fruit juices may displace more calorie- and nutrient-dense foods. Additionally, fructose and sorbitol malabsorption may occur. Excess fruit juice consumption may present a contributing factor in nonorganic failure to thrive.
- Received August 24, 1992.
- Accepted July 25, 1993.
- Copyright © 1994 by the American Academy of Pediatrics