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Lemon water - a powerful weight loss, metabolism boosting, detox drink?

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

Hey everyone and happy March, I hope you are all well! This post is going to be exploring the benefits of lemon water and some common misconceptions too.

Before we begin, just a reminder that this is not medical advice. I am not a doctor or dietician, these are just some thoughts I’ve put together after doing some research, and I have chosen to look at scientific evidence, rather than relying on a basic Google or YouTube search.

Let’s get to it…

A variety of sources make countless claims that consuming lemon water daily has powerful health and weight loss benefits, can detox the body, and boost our metabolism, but what does research say?

Well, both lemons and water have health benefits, but little research has been done specifically about lemon water.

What are the benefits? We’ll look at them separately…

Lemons are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids, for example. Flavonoids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to increase our absorption of iron, heal our wounds and protect our immune system. Quite famously, in the past, lemons have been consumed to cure and prevent scurvy, a disease caused by chronic vitamin C deficiency, developed by sailors when months were spent at sea with no access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

Some benefits of water? Most importantly, it keeps us alive! Without a doubt, it is the most important nutrient, as without it, our organs would cease to function. It prevents dehydration, increases our physical activity performance, reduces fatigue, and helps with our mood and cognitive function. It is also vital for our digestive health, can prevent headaches, and reduce the risk of kidney stones.

So we can see that both water and lemons have their health benefits. Let’s now look into some claims made by the media, the science behind them, and whether they are true or not.

Lemon water is a detox drink, can cleanse your body and balance your pH levels.

There’s an abundance (actually I don’t think you can search lemon water without these coming up) of articles, videos and posts telling us that lemon water will detox the body, flush away toxins from our system and balance our (blood) pH levels.

While water helps eliminate waste from our bodies through urine, faeces, respiration and sweat, there’s currently no evidence to support that consuming a particular food, drink or supplement can detoxify or cleanse your body. Luckily, helped by a healthy diet, adequate fluid intake, and regular exercise, our bodies do it for us, thanks to our intestines, liver, kidneys, lungs and other self cleaning organs (if you don’t have any underlying health conditions that might affect these natural processes).

Our bodies also do not fill with toxins that need to be flushed away. Toxins that are made in the body during metabolism, and environmental toxins we may consume, breath or absorb through our skin, are naturally excreted. Again, we can support the body’s natural process by leading a healthy lifestyle, but if toxins were to build up in our body that we could not excrete, we would need some serious medical intervention.

Regarding lemon water to keep the body’s pH levels stable, science tells us that it is not possible to change your blood pH through diet, and any changes to your pH, could potentially be life threatening.

Onto some more claims…

Lemon water boosts your metabolism and promotes weight loss.

The internet seems to hail lemon water as one of the best metabolism boosting, weight loss remedies, but there is currently little evidence to support this.

Firstly, our metabolic rate is largely determined by many things. These include our body composition, caloric intake, age, genetics, hormone function and the amount of physical activity we do. Consuming lemon water isn’t going to have a meaningful impact on the speed of our metabolism.

In terms of weight loss, further investigation is needed to look at any extra benefits, compared to plain water. In 2008, a 12 week study on obese mice with a high fat diet showed that giving them lemon polyphenol supplementations prevented or improved their obesity and insulin resistance. While this may be a good starting point for further exploration, the same results have not been confirmed in humans, or the concentration of lemon polyphenols needed for this effect.

Lemons also contains a fibre called pectin, which may aid weight loss in obesity, but the amount of pectin found after squeezing a whole lemon is less than 1 gram.

That said, if adding lemon to your water helps you to drink more, increased hydration can be associated with weight loss, and it could be used as a lower calorie and lower sugar alternative to sugary drinks. Vitamin C has also been shown to be inversely related to body mass; individuals consuming enough Vitamin C oxidise 30% more fat during exercise, compared to those with lower amounts.

Some final thoughts…

A lot of health benefits associated with lemon water are anecdotal. One person might find it relaxing to drink warm in the evening, another might find a cold glass kick starts their day and helps them to make healthier choices. Others may just find it a refreshing alternative to plain water from time to time, or find it comforting to drink when they feel under the weather.

Current evidence confirms that it isn't the magical weight loss, metabolism boosting, detoxifying drink the media makes it out to be, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t drink, enjoy, and benefit from it. As part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, it aids hydration and provides some nutrients too.

And just to round things up…I’m amazed by the amount of misleading information out there, readily available, just about this one topic. I mean, who blames us for thinking those things about lemon water when we’ve been promised those benefits over and over again?

While the internet is an extremely useful tool, we should definitely be curious and cautious about the information out there, who’s providing it and the intention behind it.

Thanks so much for reading, until next time, take care and be kind :) x

No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health professional.

Articles used:

Strategies for healthy weight loss: from vitamin C to the glycemic response

Effects of Dietary Fibre (Pectin) and/or Increased Protein (Casein or Pea) on Satiety, Body Weight, Adiposity and Caecal Fermentation in High Fat Diet-Induced Obese Rats

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