There is a common belief that drinking water before meals reduces the amount of calories consumed and suppresses hunger. This should help with weight loss efforts. We have all felt more full when we ate after consuming water. Here is a summary of the research that has been done thus far.
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Reduced Calories Consumed by Older Adults
A study was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2008. The researchers wanted to find out if drinking water before meals, reduced the amount of calories consumed. 24 over weight and obese adults with an average age of 60 were given 500 ml of water before having breakfast. Researchers found that the calories consumed were significantly less when the women drank water before breakfast as compared to when they did not. The approximate reduction in calories were about 13%. The results were not affected by sex or daily habits of consuming water.
Another study that examined the effects of drinking water before meals while on a reduced calorie diet. The findings of the study was published in the Journal Obesity. Again, the study participants were older adults with ages between 55 and 75. The participants were asked to drink 500 ml of water before a meal. The participants remained on the reduced calorie diet for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, researchers found that the participants who drank water before a meal had 44% greater weight loss than the group that did not. Bear in mind that both groups were on a reduced calorie diet. As expected, the researchers found that the group that drank water before a meal, consumed lesser amount of calories during that meal. The researchers concluded that older adults on a reduced calorie diet could get greater weight loss by drinking water before meals.
What About Younger Adults?
Most of the research done thus far was on older adults. In another study, researchers wanted to compare the effects of drinking water before meals in young and old adults. Both groups were healthy and non-obese. The findings of the study was published in the Journal of Obesity 2007. The younger group of participants were aged between 21 and 35. The older group were aged between 60 and 80. The group of participants drank water 30 minutes before their meal. The energy intake at the lunch meal was measured. The researchers found no significant differences in calories consumed by the younger group of participants by drinking water before meals. The older group had a significant reduction in total calories consumed during a meal.
Researchers concluded that pre-meal water consumption reduced the amount of calories consumed by older adults. Younger adults did not experience the same effect. It was suggested that older adults who were at higher risk of being overweight could benefit from this simple strategy.
Everyone Benefits from Higher Satiety Levels
Another study looked at the effects of drinking water before a meal on psychological factors such as satiety, feelings of hunger and desire to eat. 8 healthy and normal weight women had 3 breakfasts with 2 glasses of water. They had another 3 breakfasts without water. The findings were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The results showed that drinking two glasses of water affects subjective feelings of hunger and satiety during breakfast.
The earlier study that was published in the Journal of Obesity 2007 found that both younger and the older groups had higher satiety or fullness ratings.
Conclusion of Scientific Research
Drinking water before meals affects the amount of calories consumed by older adults. There was only one research done thus far with younger adults which did not show a change in calories consumed by drinking water before meals. Both younger and older adults have shown higher satiety levels and reduced feelings of hunger when drinking water before meals.
More research needs to be done on younger adults. The only research done thus far was on 29 healthy and non-obese young adults (Journal of Obesity). Could the outcome be different if the research was repeated with obese and overweight young adults.
Young Adults Could Also Benefit
I believe that young adults could also derive similar benefits as older adults. The young adults in the Journal of Obesity study drank water 30 minutes before their meal. Younger people are probably more efficient in getting the water out of the gut than older people. As such, most of the water may have already been removed by the time they ate the meal 30 minutes later. I believe that younger people will have to allow much lesser time between consuming water and having the meal. As such, research on younger people should be done by taking water at say 5 to 10 minutes before the meal.
Drinking water before a meal definitely gives you a fuller feeling faster than if you had not. There is a tendency to stop eating earlier. If you do not believe this, try drinking 500 ml of water 5 minutes before your meal and I am sure that you will eat less. Lets wait and see if research will prove this hypothesis right?