It sounds almost too simple: Add a slice or two of fresh lemon to whatever you’re drinking and you’ll lose weight.
Maybe you’ve seen this claim making its rounds across the Wild West that is health and nutrition advice on social media. And if it leads to some questions, that’s only natural. What is it about lemon, specifically, that’s supposed to help me lose weight? How much of this stuff do I have to drink to achieve the benefits? Does the lemon hanging off this bucket filled with sweet tea I just bought at the gas station count?
Social influencers, so-called wellness experts, and questionable websites that start with the word “health” and end with the word “line” all argue that drinking lemon-spiked liquid can boost your metabolism, eliminate toxins, aid digestion, improve your skin, and even help you lose weight.
But could all this possibly be true? Could something so simple—something that’s found in nearly every kitchen on the planet—be the key to living a healthier, slimmer life?
Lemons are, after all, incredibly inexpensive, and while you couldn’t exactly describe their taste as “AWESOME!” they are certainly refreshing and not unpleasant. And drinking lemon water isn’t as nasty as choking down a diet-sponsored “meal replacement” shake or as complex and blending together some type of detox concoction.
On paper, lemon water is a pretty easy sell. But what about the science?
We decided to turn to actual experts in order to get to the truth about lemon water and weight loss.
Can lemon water help you lose weight?
According to people who know how the body works, all adding lemon to water really does is make your water taste like lemon.
“It’s not going to burn fat by any stretch of the imagination,” says Karen Ansel, R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging.
It’s obvious that if you’re using lemon water as a replacement for something else—a 400-calorie mega mocha whipped-cream-topped “coffee,” perhaps—yeah, you’ll lose weight. And there’s a little glimmer of hope that on its own, the water part of the equation may indirectly help your pounds-off efforts. “Drinking about 16 ounces of water before a meal has been shown to help with weight loss,” Ansel says.
In fact, one study published in the journal Obesity found that obese adults who drank that much tap water before a meal (not sparkling) lost 2.8 pounds more over 12 weeks than people who didn’t “pre-load” with water, possibly because it made participants feel more full. “But adding lemon won’t do anything at all to help you burn more calories,” Ansel says.
Can lemon water help you detox?
It’s true that lemons have nutrients in them, such as vitamin C. But even an entire half a lemon in eight ounces of water won’t really change your body’s vitamin status much. And lemon as “detoxer”? Your liver already has detoxing covered for you.
Are there any side effects to drinking lemon water for weight loss?
If you like the taste of lemon water, and you’re not drinking it solely for the purposes of losing weight or detoxing, great. Just be sure to chase your morning glass with a plain-water rinse.
“Lemon is very acidic and not great for tooth enamel,” Ansel says. Erosive food and drinks can weaken tooth enamel and brushing within about 30 minutes can remove some of it. Rinse right away after drinking lemon water, then wait a bit before you brush.
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