Water not a 'magic bullet' for losing weight, nutrition expert says
What role does water play in weight loss? (Jaroslav74 / shutterstock.com)
Published Sunday, March 16, 2014 10:51AM EDT
Drinking water is often advised as a way to quicken the weight loss process. However, a nutrition expert from the University of Alabama in Birmingham says water isn't the "magic bullet" for losing weight.
"There is very little evidence that drinking water promotes weight loss; it is one of those self-perpetuating myths," said Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of nutrition sciences. "I'm not saying drinking water isn't good; but only one study showed people who drank more water burned a few extra calories, and it was only a couple of extra calories a day."
Kitchin says another "water myth" is the old advice to drink eight 8oz glasses per day.
"Yes, people do need to get fluids; but it does not have to be water," Kitchin said. "There's no evidence that it melts away fat or makes you feel fuller, so if you don't like water it's OK."
She notes that water is the best hydrator, but in terms of fluid replacement other options will work, including green tea or mineral water/juice combinations.
Caffeinated beverages such as coffee also provide hydration.
"People think coffee doesn't count, but actually it does," Kitchin said. "When you drink coffee, your body is retaining much of that fluid -- especially for people who are habituated to drinking caffeine, as the body adapts, resulting in a reduced loss of fluids."
The idea that cold water burns more calories, as the body has to work to raise the temperature, is also a myth, according to Kitchin.
"You will hear that ice-cold water helps burn extra calories," Kitchin said. "While there may be a few extra calories lost, it won't be nearly enough to make a dent in your weight-loss endeavors."
The professor recommends following a long-running, research-based weight management program such as EatRight by UAB or Volumetrics.
"These plans were built on the premise that if you eat lower-calorie, 'heavier' foods, you're not going to magically lose 25 more pounds than somebody on a different diet, but it might help you feel fuller and not hungry," Kitchin said. "While drinking water may not help you lose weight, a focus on eating foods with high water content like fruits, veggies and broth-based soups can."