Drinking Water Before Meals May Help You Lose Weight

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Does the old weight loss advice to drink water before a meal really help? A new study says it just might. Finding simple, low-cost and effective strategies for weight loss could mean lower cancer risk for thousands of Americans every year because too much body fat is a cause of ten cancers, including colorectal and post-menopausal breast.

The 12 week study, published in Obesity, randomized 84 obese adults into two groups: one group was told to drink 2 cups of water 30 minutes before meals and the other to imagine their stomachs were full 30 minutes before their meals. All participants were given a half hour session on weight management strategies and all received a follow-up phone call later to gauge how closely they were following their plan – either water drinking or stomach imagining. The researchers also sent them text messages reminders and participants completed questionnaires about compliance throughout the study.

Both groups lost weight, but the water drinking group lost, on average, about 3 pounds more than those who imagined full stomachs. About one-third of the water drinkers did so 3 times per day. Even more impressive is that they lost an average of 8 pounds more than those who reported drinking water 0-1 times per day before meals.

The authors caution that we need at least a year-long trial before we can say whether this strategy works long-term.

For overall health, we’ve just been reminded that we don’t really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day in a recent New York Times article by Aaron Caroll. His 2007 publication debunked that myth because we can get most of our water through food like vegetables and fruit, and other beverages. But if you’re drinking sodas, juice and other sugary beverages, you’ll load up on extra calories and risk gaining weight. So while you may not need to drink lots of water, it’s one of the best beverage choices and it’s free!

And if you want to boost your weight loss, drinnking water before meals is simple and has no side effects. Want to try it? Pour yourself a tall glass of water before dinner and let us know how it goes. Don’t like plain water? Check out our slide show, for some interesting ways to Spice Up Your Water.


The study was funded by the Scientific Foundation board of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the European Hydration Institute


Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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