July 24/Lonodn/The Express -- Women who drink a glass of orange juice each day are up to 24% more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, research claims. Those who prefer grapefruit or apple juice at breakfast appear to be 15% more likely to suffer the condition. High levels of sugar found in the drinks could be to blame, said researchers.

The findings suggest women should be careful about using a glass of fruit juice as one of their recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables.

The American study looked at the long-term health of 70,000 female nurses aged between 38 and 63.

Once every four years, the women were asked to fill in a food diary and reveal any new health problems.

After 18 years, researchers looked at the findings to see whether certain foods were linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

They discovered that women who ate at least three portions of fruit a day had 18% less chance of suffering diabetes.

Those who ate leafy green vegetables each day saw their risk drop by about 9%.

However, the biggest increase in risk for the condition was among fruit juice lovers, who saw their risk increase by an average of 18%.

Those who had three glasses a day saw their risk increase by a massive 50%.

However, the researchers admit many women may have said they drank fruit juice when they meant fruit punch, a more refined and sugary juice drink.

Dr. Lydia Bazzano, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, who performed the research, urged women to be careful about their intake of fruit juices.

"Caution should be observed in replacing beverages with fruit juices in an effort to provide healthier options," she said.

"The same caution applies to the recommendation that 100% fruit juice be considered a serving of fruit." However, Pav Pank, a Diabetes U.K. care advisor, said, "It's very unlikely the consumption of fruit juices alone increases the risk of developing diabetes.

"There are a number of factors we know of that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, such as being overweight, an unhealthy diet and a lack of physical activity.

Diabetes U.K. recommends a healthy, balanced diet low in fat, salt and sugar, and includes at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

"A small glass of unsweetened fruit juice only counts as one serving, no matter how much you drink."

The U.K. guzzles its way through an estimated two million liters of juice every year, equivalent to around 36 liters for every man, woman and child. Many consume a morning glass of juice as part of their recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetable intake even though some nutritionists believe that it is not as effective as eating the whole fruit.

More than 2.3 million people in Britain have diabetes, and an estimated 500,000 more could be sufferers without knowing it.   

From the August 4, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash