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Research: Does Drinking Water Help People Lose Weight?

Some studies have shown that people may lose extra pounds by doing the opposite of what I recommend in this article. 

Drinking-Water Before Meals

Recent headlines have reported that middle-aged and older adults who drank two cups of water before each meal consumed fewer calories and lost more weight than those who skipped drinking water before sitting down to eat, based on a new study published in the journal Obesity in August 2010.2

The finding is not particularly surprising, considering the fact that water intake before meals impairs digestion.  As I described above, drinking water before meals dilutes stomach acids and enzymes; as well, it may suppress the secretion of the acids and enzymes needed for digestion.  These two effects make it difficult for the stomach to digest food.  While I do not think this practice will lead to long-term healthy weight loss and do not personally recommend it, drinking water before meals are probably safer and definitely cheaper than taking any of the commercially available diet pills.  It should be noted, however, that the study results only applied to people over the age of 55.  A 2007 study by the same research group showed that reduced caloric consumption via pre-meal water drinking was not observed among individuals between 21 and 35 years old.3

Drink Cold Water

Some studies have also shown that drinking cold water can increase the metabolic rate.1, 4  Can we then lose weight by simply drinking cold water?  Unfortunately, the metabolic enhancement derived from cold water drinking is probably so small that it is unlikely to lead to weight reduction.  It should be noted that a certain percentage of people (i.e., the vacuity/cold type in East Asian medicine) have a lesser ability to regenerate heat in a timely manner after drinking cold water.  Insufficient heat in the digestive tract can negatively impact the proper digestion of foods and lead to the development of undesirable symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, and diarrhea.

Related: Are You Drinking Too Much Water?

1.             Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. Water-induced thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2003;88(12):6015-6019.

2.             Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Comber DL, Flack KD, Savla J, Davy KP, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(2):300-307.

3.             Van Walleghen EL, Orr JS, Gentile CL, Davy BM. Pre-meal water consumption reduces meal energy intake in older but not younger subjects. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007;15(1):93-99.

4.             Brown CM, Dulloo AG, Montani JP. Water-induced thermogenesis reconsidered: The effects of osmolality and water temperature on energy expenditure after drinking. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2006;91(9):3598-3602.