For a long time, drinking water has been thought to help with weight loss.
Many studies show that drinking more water may benefit weight loss and maintenance. Photo credit: Shutterstock
This article explains how drinking water can help you lose weight.
Drinking Water Can Make You Burn More Calories
Most of the studies listed below looked at the effect of drinking one, 0.5 liter (17 oz) serving of water.
Supporting this, one study of overweight and obese children found a 25 percent increase in resting energy expenditure after drinking cold water (7).
A study of overweight women examined the effects of increasing water intake to more than 1 liter (34 oz) per day. They found that over a 12-month period, this resulted in an extra 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of weight loss (8).
Since these women didn't make any lifestyle changes except to drink more water, these results are very impressive.
Additionally, both of these studies indicate that drinking 0.5 liters (17 oz) of water results in an extra 23 calories burned. On a yearly basis, that sums up to roughly 17,000 calories—or more than 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of fat.
Several other studies have monitored overweight people who drank 1-1.5 liters (34–50 oz) of water daily for a few weeks. They found a significant reduction in weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and body fat (8, 9, 10).
These results may be even more impressive when the water is cold. When you drink cold water, your body uses extra calories to warm the water up to body temperature.
Bottom Line: Drinking 0.5 liters (17 oz) of water may increase the amount of calories burned for at least an hour. Some studies show that this can lead to modest weight loss.
Drinking Water Before Meals Can Reduce Appetite
Some people claim that drinking water before a meal reduces appetite.
There actually seems to be some truth behind this, but almost exclusively in middle-aged and older adults (11).
In one study, middle-aged overweight and obese participants who drank water before each meal lost 44 percent more weight, compared to a group that did not drink more water (4).
Although this may be very beneficial for middle-aged and older people, studies of younger individuals have not shown the same impressive reduction in calorie intake.
Bottom Line: Drinking water before meals may reduce appetite in middle-aged and older individuals. This decreases calorie intake, leading to weight loss.
Drinking More Water is Linked to Reduced Calorie Intake and a Lower Risk of Weight Gain
Since water is naturally calorie-free, it is generally linked with reduced calorie intake.
Drinking water may also help prevent long-term weight gain. In general, the average person gains about 1.45 kg (3.2 lbs) every 4 years (18).
This amount may be reduced by:
- Adding 1 cup of water: Increasing your daily water consumption by 1 cup may reduce this weight gain by 0.13 kg (0.23 lbs).
- Replacing other drinks with water: Substituting a serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage with 1 cup of water may reduce the 4-year weight gain by 0.5 kg (1.1 lbs).
A recent, school-based study aimed to reduce obesity rates by encouraging children to drink water. They installed water fountains in 17 schools and provided classroom lessons about water consumption for 2nd and 3rd graders.
After one school year, the risk of obesity had been reduced by a whopping 31 percent in the schools where water intake was increased (19).
Bottom Line: Drinking more water may lead to decreased calorie intake and reduce the risk of long-term weight gain and obesity, especially in children.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Many health authorities recommend drinking eight, 8-oz glasses of water (about 2 liters) per day.
However, this number is completely random. As with so many things, water requirements depend entirely on the individual (20).
For example, people who sweat a lot or exercise regularly may need more water than those who are not very active.
Older people and breast-feeding mothers also need to monitor their water intake more closely (21).
As a good rule of thumb, you should always drink water when you're thirsty and drink enough to quench your thirst.
Based on the studies, drinking 1-2 liters of water per day should be sufficient to help with weight loss.
Here's how much water you should drink, in different measurements:
- Liters: 1–2.
- Ounces: 34–67.
- Glasses (8-oz): 4–8.
However, this is just a general guideline. Some people may need less, while others may need a lot more.
Also, it is not recommended to drink too much water either, as it may cause water toxicity. This has even caused death in extreme cases, such as during water drinking contests.
Bottom Line: According to the studies, 1–2 liters of water per day is enough to assist with weight loss, especially when consumed before meals.
Take Home Message
Water can be really helpful for weight loss.
It is 100 percent calorie-free, helps you burn more calories and may even suppress your appetite if consumed before meals.
The benefits are even greater when you replace sugary beverages with water. It is a very easy way to cut back on sugar and calories.
However, keep in mind that you're going to have to do a lot more than just drink water if you need to lose a significant amount of weight.
Water is just one, very small piece of the puzzle.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>