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Drinking Water for Weight Loss

Drinking adequate amounts of fluid is an important aspect of a healthy diet. 

In previous work, my former colleagues Michael Boschmann and Jens Jordan in Berlin demonstrated that in healthy men, drinking of 500 ml of water, but not an equal amount of iso-osmotic saline, increases metabolic rate by around 25% for about 60 mins after ingestion (JCEM 2007).

So, can drinking water help with weight management? And, is such an effect specific to water?

This question was now assessed by Jodi Stookey and colleagues from the Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, California, published in this month’s issue of OBESITY.

This retrospective study tested for associations between absolute and relative increases in drinking water and weight loss over 12 months in 173 premenopausal overweight women (aged 25-50 years) undergoing the Stanford A TO Z Weight Loss Study who reported <1 l/day drinking water at baseline.

Diet, physical activity, body weight, percent body fat (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), and waist circumference were assessed at baseline, 2, 6, and 12 months. At each time point, mean daily intakes of drinking water, noncaloric, unsweetened caloric (e.g., 100% fruit juice, milk) and sweetened caloric beverages, and food energy and nutrients were estimated using three unannounced 24-h diet recalls. Beverage intake was expressed in absolute (g) and relative terms (% of beverages).

Absolute and relative increases in drinking water were associated with significant loss of body weight and fat over time, independent of diet group, and changes in other beverage intake, the amount and composition of foods consumed and physical activity.

The results suggest that drinking water (but not other fluids, including fluids with artificial sweeteners) may promote weight loss in overweight dieting women.

How important is this finding? It is certainly consistent with the hypothesis that drinking water does indeed affect metabolism. On the other hand – retrospective analyses are fraught with difficulties – guess we’ll need to wait for a prospective randomised controlled trial on this one.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. It seems to me to be rather fantastical from a thermodynamic perspective to have water affect weight loss.

    It also seems fantastical to believe that water affects satiety as from an evolutionary biology perspective, that strikes me as a bad plan whereupon not hungry but thirst slaked folks might not procure enough food to survive and pass on genes.

    To add some science to the mix, a study came out this week in the journal Nutrition that found that consistent with Barbara Rolls’ work, intake of water from foods, but not beverages, was associated with lower BMI.

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  2. Yoni: my understanding from these studies is not that drinking water actually affects the satiety signals. Rather, Jens Jordan has shown that the thermogenic effect of drinking water actually results from an activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

    If you want to take a teleological view of why this may make sense – here is one possible explanation. In the wild, the few minutes that animals spend at a watering hole are the most dangerous, because it is here that predators hang around hoping for a kill. So you want to quickly drink and then take off. The fact that drinking water may activate your sympathetic nervous system may simply be the remnant of a primitive response that perpares you for fight and flight and allows you to put as much distance between yourself and the watering hole as soon as possible after your drink. Pure speculation of course, but I kind of like the mental image.

    Of course, no one claims that drinking water will be enough to actually get a substantial amount of weight loss – on the other hand, every calorie burnt is a calorie burnt. Drinking water is also ecologically friendly, i.e. unless you are drinking out of a plastic bottle.


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  3. i truly believe in drinking water for weightloss.from my gross weight of 75kg i managed to lose weight by drinking water about 8 – 10 glasses a day, i never was obssesed with weightloss it just happened naturally one thing is that it controls all the hunger pangs and you just end up having 3 small meals. Also the benefit is that the skin, eyes are so clear that anybody who sees u will ask u wat u have been doing lately………..water is no doubt treated sacred in many religions. well i am now 59kgs

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