Chow Line: Water, weight loss link needs research

Chow Line logo

I heard about a study that showed drinking more water can help people lose weight. But I thought that was a myth that had been debunked a long time ago. Can you clarify?

You probably heard something about a recent review of previous studies on this topic, published ahead of print online in late June in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers searched through nearly 5,000 records of research in online databases for studies that reported on an association between daily water consumption and any weight-related outcome. They found just 11 original studies and two other systematic reviews. Of the 11 original studies, only three specifically focused on people trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss.

Those three studies did, in fact, show a relation between increased water consumption and increased weight loss, the reviewers said. But two other short-term studies that included mixed-weight populations that weren’t necessarily dieting didn’t show a relation between drinking water
and weight loss. Other studies reported on water consumption and current body weight status, and results were inconsistent. In fact, some showed obese people tended to drink more water.

Still, nutritionists and other professionals specializing in weight loss often recommend that their clients drink more water, which some believe can help reduce hunger pangs and increase a feeling of fullness with absolutely no calories. In comparison, juices and sweetened beverages often have 160 calories per serving.

There’s also speculation that drinking enough water helps the body’s metabolism and increases energy expenditure, but solid research on that is hard to find.

But water does help the body in countless other ways, including:

  • The functioning of every cell and organ in the body.
  • Regulation of body temperature through perspiration. (You need more water when you exercise — at the gym, in the garden or any other time you work yourself into a sweat.)
  • Prevention and relief of constipation by helping food move through the intestines.
  • Lubrication and cushioning of joints.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume 91 ounces (about 11.5 cups) and men consume 125 ounces (about 15.5 cups) of water a day, but that includes water from other beverages and from food. The institute says on average, people get about 20 percent of their water intake from food.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

For a PDF of this column, click here.

CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Dan Remley
OSU Extension, Food, Nutrition and Wellness