If you’re overweight and haven’t been able to drop excess pounds, adding more of something to your daily diet could help you reach your target weight.
It’s not a supplement or a drug and has nothing to do with protein, fats, or carbs. Instead, it’s simply a matter of drinking more water.
Of course, the reason people pack on pounds is more complicated than not downing enough water (meaning you lack adequate hydration, to use the medical terminology). But research suggests drinking less water every day than your body needs could play an important role in overeating. It might slow down your metabolism, too.
When a University of Michigan research team analyzed health and diet information about a representative sample of 9,528 adult Americans (participants in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), the results of the study showed about a third of the people between the ages of 18 and 64 drank an inadequate amount of water.
A relationship between not being well hydrated and being overweight became obvious, according to the researchers. It turns out the people who were obese and those who had a higher-than-normal body mass index (BMI) — a measure of body fat based on weight in relation to height — typically didn’t consume enough water compared to those of normal weight.
What’s more, the study suggests people with higher BMIs, who need more water daily than slim people, likely ate a lot of processed foods instead of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water.
Whether inadequate hydration causes people to be overweight or being overweight results in people not drinking enough water is a “which comes first, the chicken or the egg” kind of question, and the researchers acknowledged more research is needed to pinpoint how hydration can influence weight.
However, their findings indicate the amount of water overweight people drink deserves more attention when it comes to addressing the wide-spread obesity problem, according to Tammy Chang, MD, who headed the study.
“Staying hydrated is good for you no matter what, and our study suggests it may also be linked to maintaining a healthy weight,” said Chang, an assistant professor in the University of Michigan’s department of family medicine. “We often hear recommendations that drinking water is a way to avoid overeating because you may be thirsty rather than hungry.”
However, hydration is often overlooked in adult weight management strategies, she added.
Research by Simon N. Thornton, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the University of Lorraine in France, suggests adequate water intake can actually lead to weight loss — primarily because it increases a feeling of fullness so you don’t eat as much. But after analyzing studies on chronic dehydration, Thornton also concluded an increased, adequate intake of water has a positive impact on metabolism at the cellular level. The result, at least hypothetically, could be fat loss.
There’s not an exact number of glasses of water adults need to drink each day. Instead, your goal to stay hydrated should involve drinking when you are thirsty (and opt for water most of the time to cut calories) and having water with your meals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Including broth soups and foods with high water content such as melons, tomatoes, and celery in your diet can help you keep hydrated, too. The CDC also suggests taking a water bottle with you when you run errands. And, if plain water seems like a boring drink, add a slice of lemon or lime to improve the taste and help you drink more H2O.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) points out some circumstances — including exercise, aging, and taking certain medications — can increase your need for water. Visit the NIA’s Go4Life page for more information and tips on how to get enough water daily.
September 09, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN