Can Lemon Water Help You Lose Weight?

You may have heard that drinking lemon water can help you lose weight and improve your overall health. Read on to find out whether there is any medical evidence for these health and wellness claims, how to make lemon water to promote weight loss, and any potential side effects to be aware of.

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What is lemon water?

As the name suggests, lemon water is lemon juice squeezed into water. It can be drunk hot or cold, strong or weak, and with or without various other ingredients.

Health benefits of lemons

Lemons are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense fruit. One medium-sized lemon contains only around 17 calories but provides up to 76% of your recommended daily vitamin C intake.¹ Lemons also contain other essential minerals such as potassium and vitamin B6.²

Cancer-fighting antioxidants

Lemons are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. One study reported that a specific lemon extract inhibited the growth of cancer cells in both in vitro (test tube) and in vivo (testing on mice) tests.³

Additionally, one of the flavonoids in lemons, hesperidin, has been shown in vitro to suppress the growth of breast cancer and, potentially, prostate cancer cells.⁴ Hesperidin is found in the peel, pith, and membrane of a lemon and the juice in small amounts.

Iron absorption

Lemon juice can help to prevent iron-deficiency anemia because vitamin C has been shown to increase the absorption of iron.⁵

Drinking a glass of lemon water with a meal containing iron-rich foods will ensure that the iron is converted into a bioavailable form that can be more easily absorbed and utilized by your body.

Kidney stones

All citrus fruits are high in citric acid, but lemon juice contains the highest levels.⁶ The citric acid, also called citrate, found in lemon juice has been shown to decrease kidney stone formation in people prone to recurrent kidney stones.⁷

How does lemon water help with weight loss?

Regularly drinking lemon water can support weight loss in various ways:

1. Lemon water is low in calories

Lemon water is significantly lower in calories than juices and sodas. The juice of half a medium lemon squeezed into a glass of water contains roughly 8 calories, whereas a glass of orange juice has about 113 calories,⁸ and a can of soda contains around 160 calories.⁹

Swapping out your juice or soda with lemon water can lower your daily calorie intake, which can help you to lose weight. If you replaced one glass of juice or a can of soda with a glass of lemon water every day for a year, you could save yourself the equivalent of 10-16 pounds of weight gain per year.

2. Lemon water can increase fullness

Drinking a glass of lemon water with your meals can help you to feel fuller, so you consume fewer calories.

Studies have shown that drinking water with your meals can help to decrease hunger and increase feelings of satiety during and after a meal.¹⁰ The satiating effects of lemon water are similar to the effects of drinking regular water with your meals. 

3. Lemon water may boost your metabolism

Both the lemon and water components of lemon water can boost your metabolism.

One small study on the impact of drinking room temperature water on metabolism found that drinking 500ml of water increased participants’ metabolic rate by 30% for up to 40 minutes after ingestion. Some of the energy expenditure was from heating the water to body temperature.¹¹

When you drink cooler water, your body expends even more energy to heat it, so drinking a cool glass of lemon water regularly throughout the day could increase your metabolism, leading to weight loss.

Lemon water helps you stay hydrated throughout the day, promoting weight loss by inducing increased lipolysis (fat breakdown). Animal studies have consistently shown that increasing hydration results in enhanced mitochondrial activity in fat cells, which causes lipolysis.¹²

The lemon extract itself may also aid weight loss by suppressing weight gain and fat accumulation. Studies in mice on a high-fat diet showed that weight gain, fat accumulation, high cholesterol, high sugar levels, and insulin resistance were all significantly suppressed by lemon polyphenols.¹³

Hesperidin, a flavonoid found in lemons, has been shown to have a beneficial effect on lipid metabolism by lowering the production of VLDL, a bad type of cholesterol, and serum triglycerides.¹⁴ Triglycerides are essentially the extra calories you consume that you don’t burn, which are then stored in your fat cells. Reducing triglycerides assists with both weight loss and overall health. 

How to make lemon water

Lemon water is typically made by adding the juice of half a lemon to an eight-ounce cup or glass of water. You can also add other natural flavorings, such as:

  • A sprig or two of mint, lemon verbena, or lemon balm leaves

  • A couple of slices of cucumber (cucumber is low in calories)

  • 2-3 thin slices of ginger or turmeric root, or a sprinkle of ginger or turmeric powder

  • 4-5 blueberries

Other than fruit, don’t add any sweeteners like honey, agave, or sugar. While adding something sweet can make it more delicious to drink, it will also increase the calorie count, eliminating most of the weight loss benefits.

Side effects of drinking lemon water

There are a number of possible side effects of drinking lemon water. One negative effect is that drinking a significant amount of lemon water can damage your tooth enamel due to its acidity.¹⁵ Enamel is the protective covering on your teeth. When it is eroded, it leaves your teeth sensitive and vulnerable to cavity formation.

If you have sensitive teeth or are worried about the effect of lemon juice on your tooth enamel, make your lemon water weaker by adding less lemon juice. A good rule of thumb recommended by dentists is to prepare lemon water with a ratio of half a lemon per 32 ounces of water.¹⁶

You can also minimize any damage to your tooth enamel by drinking lemon water through a straw (choose a metal or non-plastic straw as an environmentally-friendly option). This reduces the amount of liquid that comes into contact with your teeth.

Citrus fruits can also worsen heartburn or gastroesophageal disease,¹⁷ so if you suffer from heartburn, it may be best to avoid lemon water.

The lowdown

Drinking lemon water can be a helpful way to support weight loss. Lemon extract has been shown to have beneficial effects on fat and glucose metabolism, and it may help you lose weight.

Drinking lemon water also keeps you hydrated while being low in calories.

You can prepare lemon water according to your taste and add extra low- or zero-calorie flavorings to make it even more delicious.

If you are interested in lemon water for weight loss, make sure to combine it with a healthy diet and exercise routine.

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