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Fact or fad: Does lemon water help with weight loss?

If you’ve been dutifully squeezing lemons into water and wondering, is this doing anything? Here’s your answer.

Fact or Fad: Does Lemon Water Help With Weight Loss? | Juniper

When it comes to weight loss, there’s no shortage of trends and fad diets to occupy your mind. From paleo to keto, lemon water to intermittent fasting — it seems everyone has a simple solution.

We like to work on science and facts at Juniper, not intuition or anecdotes. This is why we regularly get to the bottom of long-held diet mysteries.

If you’ve been dutifully squeezing lemons into water and wondering, is this even doing anything? Here’s your answer: it’s not going to hurt (it might even help you lose weight), but it’s also not magic. Here's what you need to know.

Does lemon water help weight loss?

It sounds too good to be true — squeeze lemon juice into a cup of water each morning and watch the weight melt away.

Well, that version of the story is too good to be true; lemon water alone isn’t enough for sustained, long-term weight loss. But, that doesn’t mean it can't help you lose weight.

Various studies have found evidence that lemon water can help with weight loss in small ways. For example, there was one study where overweight mice were fed a high-fat diet, as well as lemon peel.

The mice who were eating the lemon peel gained less weight than the control group, which suggests lemon was successful in promoting weight maintenance. Researchers think it was the lemon polyphenols that protected against weight gain [1].

You’re unlikely to be eating lemon peel or grating it into your lemon water. So, does the drink alone work? A small study of female nursing students in India suggests it does. These participants were asked to drink 500ml of warm water mixed with half a lemon twice per day, before breakfast and dinner.

During the study, they were also asked not to exercise or follow any restrictive diets. This was to ensure the lemon water itself was the true test. After 3 weeks of lemon water twice per day, the participants did lose weight — on average, 1-4 kilograms [5].

There were a couple of theories as to why the weight loss occurred. First, there’s the fact it was warm water. Research has shown that warm water can increase your metabolic rate by up to 30%. Comparatively, cold water boosts your metabolism by less than 5%. So, warm lemon water may have been key to weight loss in this study [5].

There’s also the fact that lemon water itself is very low in calories. One lemon is estimated to have 15-30 calories. If you were replacing a high-calorie beverage like a soft drink with lemon water, the calories you’re saving may assist with weight loss [5].

Finally, there’s the vitamin C you get from lemons and also, lemon water. A large European study found that having adequate vitamin C intake helped burn fat while exercising. Since lemons are a good source of vitamin C, drinking lemon water each day could keep your vitamin levels at their best [5].

Other health benefits of lemon water

All of this is exciting stuff — especially if you came here to read about weight loss, but it’s far from the only health benefits you can reap from drinking lemon water.

Good for hydration

The human body loves water. In fact, 50-80% of our bodies are made up of water. This water keeps us running in more ways than one; from helping with digestion to absorbing nutrients, lubricating joints and regulating our body temperature.

Men need around 10 cups of water (or 2500ml) per day, while women should be having eight cups (or 2000ml) [4]. Any less than that could lead to dehydration resulting in weight gain.

This water can come from any fluids — like tea and coffee, juices or the good ol’ H2O. Lemon water is another fluid that will happily account for your daily hydration needs. So, whether it’s the taste that appeals to you or the weight loss benefits, adding a few glasses of lemon water to your day can keep your body hydrated and your overall health at its best.

Boost your vitamin C intake

Vitamin C is pretty awesome — it helps promote healthy skin and wound healing, improves iron absorption, is a powerful antioxidant and supports your immune system [9]. Lemon water is a good source of vitamin C and an easy way to fit this essential nutrient into your day. 

Lemon water may prevent kidney stones

Staying hydrated and having high levels of citric acid are 2 well-known ways to prevent kidney stones. Lemon water ticks both boxes — it’s a source of hydration, plus it has a decent citric acid level [10].

We wouldn’t be so bold as to say that a daily glass of lemon water will prevent all kidney stones, but it has been shown through research to be mildly effective [10].

Does lemon water boost the metabolism?

It’s hard to say with certainty that lemon water is going to boost your metabolism. However, there is evidence that drinking water in general has a positive effect on your metabolic rate.

As we said earlier, warm water has been shown to improve metabolic rate — in some cases up to 30%. Even though cold water had a smaller effect at around 5%, that’s still more than nothing [5]. So, it seems that keeping hydrated can be beneficial to your metabolism. 

If you’re really committed to a metabolic reset, there are medical approaches you can take. Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme is a science-backed pathway for long-term weight loss. It combines a pharmacist-prescribed medication with dietitian-led health and coaching support to help you lose 10-15% of your body weight in 1 year.

When should you drink lemon water to lose weight? 

Morning, night or exactly 3pm on the dot… does it matter when you’re drinking lemon water? No, not really. Having a glass at any time of day can be beneficial — if not for weight loss, then at least for getting enough water each day.

There is some evidence that drinking warm water in the morning is good for weight loss [5]. This is mostly thanks to the effect of warm water on the metabolism [5].

There’s also some evidence that having a glass of water around meal times can promote weight loss. Researchers have 2 main theories here [6]:

It’s more likely that the second option is at play — water, including lemon water, is a low-calorie beverage. If you’re someone who reaches for a sugary beverage at every meal, swapping to a glass of water may help with weight loss simply by removing excess calories from your mealtimes.

How much weight can you lose by drinking lemon water every day?

When you think about it, it’s pretty cool that something as simple as a glass of water with lemon can play a role in your weight loss journey.

But how long will it last, and how much weight will you lose? There are no hard and fast rules because it depends on your individual genetics, but there are some estimates we can glean from studies.

In the Indian study that we mentioned earlier, young nursing students lost an average of 1-4kg from drinking lemon water. This was after 3 weeks of having lemon water twice per day [5].

In another study, drinking 500ml of plain water prior to meals helped participants lose around 2kg. This study lasted for 12 weeks and the participants were also told not to change their exercise or diet during the study [5].

Side effects of lemon water consumption

Whenever you’re building long-term habits, it’s important to consider the possible side effects. In the case of lemon water, relying too heavily on this weight-loss technique may prove harmful in the long run.

Acid erosion

The biggest risk to frequently drinking lemon water is actually for your teeth. Any drinks including citrus fruits — whether lemons, limes or oranges — are considered highly acidic. In the long run, consuming too many high-acid beverages can lead to tooth decay [3].

Luckily, there are some things you can do to protect yourself [3]:

  • Minimise acidic beverages — try swapping every second lemon water with plain water
  • Have acidic beverages at meal times — the extra saliva production can help neutralise the acid and protect your teeth
  • Use a straw to limit the amount of acid directly exposed to your teeth
  • Avoid brushing your teeth right after an acidic drink, as the tooth enamel is already soft and brushing can damage it further

Detox diets

A lot of diets don’t work, but at least they’re not seriously bad for your health. Detox diets, on the other hand, can be quite damaging. There are a few detox diets that feature a form of lemon water — such as the lemon detox or the fat flush.

Both of these diets are used for rapid weight loss; lasting 10-14 days and replacing at least some food with a version of lemon water. Research has found little evidence to say that detox diets work. Even if they do have some success in the short term, there are significant health risks to such drastic measures [7].

Is lemon water better than regular water for weight loss?

If you compare the studies we mentioned earlier, lemon water could offer up to 4kg of weight loss, while water alone seemed to reach around 2kg [5].

We wouldn’t call that enough evidence to vote for lemon water over plain water. Though we would say there’s good enough evidence that water in general is a top choice for weight loss and maintenance.

Drinking water in general, whether lemon water or plain, is better for your health and weight than many sugary beverages. That’s because sugary drinks have more calories than water. Any calories that we take in but don’t use end up stored as fat [2].

Here’s a simple example: if you were to swap 2 large bottles of soft drink per day for 1 small can of soft drink, you can avoid around 25g of sugar each day. Over a full year of replacement, this could add up to 17kg in weight loss [2].

Examples of sugary beverages you might want to swap for water include [2]:

  • Soft drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Flavoured milk
  • Packaged iced teas
  • Coffee with full cream milk or flavoured syrups

More effective methods of weight loss

What we know about lemon water is that it’s a pretty good method for quick, short-term weight loss. But, that’s where many people struggle on their weight loss journey.

Research has shown that most people regain weight within the first few years [8]. Challenges that come up include lack of time, emotional eating, physical changes like pregnancy and illness, or negative life events such as a divorce, job loss or death [8].

For long-term weight loss, there are better methods you can use. If you like though, you can try these alongside your lemon water habit.

Weight loss shakes

Meal replacement shakes have been around for ages, but not all of them were made equal. Juniper’s Nourish Shakes are developed by dietitians and backed by science for long-term results.

The shakes are designed to replace 1-2 meals from your day, making them a gentle yet effective way to lose weight.

They were developed alongside clinicians and dietitians, which means instead of unsafe ingredients (like laxatives and fillers), they’re full of protein, fibre and the vitamins and minerals you need to feel full and energised.

Goal setting and self-monitoring 

Research has found time and time again that people who achieve long-term weight loss success are effective at goal setting and self-monitoring. This means they remain mindful of their weight loss goals and build habits to stick to them. Examples of goal-setting and self-monitoring include [8]:

  • Being mindful of portion sizes
  • Meal planning
  • Checking menus when dining out and planning ahead
  • Using visual reminders such as progress shots
  • Sticking to a regular exercise schedule

Healthy eating and exercise 

The best way to lose weight is still changing your daily habits — setting small, achievable lifestyle changes. These could be cutting back on sugar, eating more fresh food, aiming for 30 minutes of exercise each day or setting regular mealtimes [2].

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