No doubt you’ve heard that Dr. Oz has taken aim at apple juice: He says the stuff has more arsenic in it than the FDA allows in bottled water, and that constitutes a health risk.

At issue is whether the form of arsenic Oz’s research found in apple juice is of the kind that might pose danger to people who drink the stuff. The FDA has jumped to apple juice's defense, saying the agency keeps a close eye on the ubiquitous juice and that it is safe to drink. The FDA has questioned Oz’s testing methods, and, in a letter to the Dr. Oz show, says reporting that apple juice is unsafe to drink is “irresponsible and misleading.”

As the FDA explains it, arsenic, which occurs naturally in many foods, comes in both organic and inorganic forms. Only the inorganic kind is toxic, and even that depends on the amount present. The lab tests conducted for Dr. Oz only tallied total arsenic; they didn’t distinguish between inorganic and organic arsenic.

The debate will surely continue. In the meantime, let me point out that kids really don’t need much (if any) apple juice in the first place.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago in my “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy “ column about the nutritional profile of apples. In that column I note that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans consider a cup of apple juice to count as one cup of the daily 2 cups of fruit we should consume daily. But the dietary guidelines also recommend that we eat most of our fruit in the form of whole fruit, not juice. Whole fruit typically has more fiber and does a better job of making us feel full than juice does.

And consider this: an 8.25-ounce box of apple juice isn’t much different, nutritionally, than an 8-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola. Each has around 100 calories, and each has about 30 grams of sugar. Unless your brand is fortified with ascorbic acid, that much apple juice contributes 4 percent of our daily Vitamin C and tiny percentages of iron and calcium.

To my mind, that puts both beverages in the “occasional treat” category.

Your thoughts?

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