Can Lemon Water Really Help You Lose Weight?

Drinking lemon water is widely believed to have a host of health benefits. Some cite its ability to balance the body’s pH levels (whatever that means), while others claims that it can help improve your skin, aid in digestion and promote weight loss, among many, many others.

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While some of these claims have been greatly exaggerated, there are many benefits to the drink. Here, we examine the real benefits of lemon water. Find out which claims are real, and which supposed “benefits” you should take with a grain of salt.

The Truth About Lemon Water And Weight Loss

While proponents insist on the miraculous weight-loss properties of lemon water, doctors remain less than convinced. “Hot water with lemon in and of itself does not cause any actual weight loss,” confirms Allisa Rumsey of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietics.

That said, if the lemon water is replacing other, more caloric drinks, this could indeed help promote weight loss. Think about it: If you replace one bottle of soda a day with lemon water, you’ll be cutting out around 180 calories each day. According to the Mayo Clinic, losing a pound of fat is equivalent to burning or cutting out 3,500 calories. While the math of fat-burning isn’t actually quite this simple, it’s nonetheless a helpful estimate; the 180 calories you would cut out by replacing a soda with lemon water would add up to a pound about every 20 days. Not bad for a simple, refreshing switch. More important, however, is all the sugar you’ll be cutting out of your diet if you replace traditional fizzy or fruit-punch-type drinks with lemon water — especially since we now know that added sugar is the leading cause of obesity.

Boost Your Metabolism

Lemon water has touted for its metabolism-boosting properties, and indeed, research has shown that the consumption of lemon water can lead to a modest metabolism boost. However, this isn’t because of lemon water’s inherent properties, but simply because your body needs plenty of water to function well.  “Staying hydrated is an important component of a healthy diet because it boosts your metabolism,” says Rumsey. Many of us struggle to get enough water and stay hydrated: according to some estimates, up to 75 per cent of Americans are chronically dehydrated.

For many people, drinking something with flavour is easier than simply guzzling water. Drinking a cold glass of lemon-water every morning, or hot water with lemon in the afternoon, is also a conscious decision we make to stay hydrated that we may not have done otherwise.

Prevent Bloating

Another way that lemon water appears to help people “lose weight” is by reducing bloating. Lemon functions as a diuretic, helping your body rid itself of excess water, which may help give you a streamlined, flat-belly look. However, this is not the same as true fat loss.

Additionally, if you consistently experience long-lasting, uncomfortable bloating, you should examine the root cause; drinking too much soda, eating excessive amounts of gas-inducing foods and eating too quickly can all contribute to bloating.

Unverified Claims

The previous benefits are all fairly scientifically supported. There are, however, a variety of claims for hot-lemon water that have not yet been verified by western medicine. According to some natural health practitioners, drinking hot water with lemon water supposedly helps detoxify the liver and clean out the digestive system. Right?

Not necessarily. Dr. Joy Dubost says that these claims for drinking hot-lemon water are largely anecdotal and not supported by science. “Your body does not need any assistance with discarding or eliminating so-called toxins. The lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and liver complete this process,” she says.

Lemon water fans claim various other benefits: that it helps drinkers stay young, improves skin, balances the body’s pH levels, reduces appetite, cleanses the urinary tract, improves breath and promotes healing. While some of these benefits may well be real, it’s also possible that, as with many health fads, many of them have been grossly exaggerated.

Nutritional consultant Dr. Mike Roussell certainly doesn’t seem impressed. “The magic properties of drinking a juiced lemon in warm water each morning is rooted in a seed of truth,” he admits, but adds,  “the  impact of the ritual is greatly overstated.” So while “lemon has a handful of characteristics and compounds that contribute to good health,” he warns not to expect miracles.

Even so, there are a number of reasons why drinking lemon water can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Lemons are cheap, and juicing them doesn’t take much work, which means this little health habit is an easy one to stick to.

Furthermore, we could all use more more fresh fruit in our diets, and the nutrients found in citrus are beneficial, but the biggest gain from drinking lemon-water is quite simply that it encourages you to drink more water and be better hyrdated.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that there is such a thing as too much lemon water. If you have acid reflux or heartburn, the lemon water’s citric acid could exacerbate the issue. Furthermore, hot water with lemon is tough on teeth, and could lead to enamel erosion in the long-run. Dr. Sara Solomon suggests waiting at least 60 minutes after drinking lemon water before brushing your teeth. She also suggests rinsing the mouth with water or chewing sugar-free gum immediately after drinking the lemon water as a way to normalize the pH in your mouth and protect your teeth.