While there are no shortcuts when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, a new study presented at the 2010 National Meeting of the American Chemical Society reports that a useful tool for shedding extra pounds may be as close as the nearest tap.
Folklore and early scientific research have suggested that water can help promote weight loss, but no gold-standard support for this theory had been confirmed in a randomized, controlled trial comparing weight loss among people who drank water prior to meals to weight loss in people who did not. To address this gap in the evidence, researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University randomly assigned 48 adults between the ages of 55 and 75 to one of two groups; people in one group drank 2 cups of water prior to meals, while those in the other group did not. All of the participants ate a low-calorie diet over the course of the 12-week study.
At the end of the study period, those in the water group had lost an average of about 15.5 pounds, while those in the non-water group had lost roughly 11 pounds, on average. Those who drank water also kept the weight off for a full year after the study, and some even lost an additional 1 to 2 pounds. The researchers suggested that water might work so well as a weight-loss tool because it fills the stomach up and causes a feeling of fullness, thereby reducing food consumption, without itself contributing any calories. (Replacing high-calorie beverages with water is another way in which water can help reduce overall calorie consumption.)
According to senior study author Brenda Davy, PhD, “We found in earlier studies that middle aged and older people who drank two cups of water right before eating a meal ate between 75 and 90 fewer calories during that meal. In this recent study, we found that over the course of 12 weeks, dieters who drank water before meals, three times per day, lost about 5 pounds more than dieters who did not increase their water intake… People should drink more water and less sugary, high-calorie drinks. It’s a simple way to facilitate weight management.”
Although nobody knows just how much water people should have daily, the Institute of Medicine has set general recommendations for fluid consumption (including fluids from foods and beverages other than water) at about 9 cups a day for women and roughly 13 cups a day for men. Davy notes that it is possible to drink too much water, which can lead to a rare but serious condition known as water intoxication.
To learn more about the research, read the articles “Drink Water to Curb Weight Gain? Clinical Trial Confirms Effectiveness of Simple Appetite Control Method” and “Water May Be Secret Weapon in Weight Loss.”