Water – The Weight Loss Elixir?

Reports about water are as solid as water itself. Some reports extol the value of water as an important weight loss strategy. In the last decade, people have been led to believe that they do not drink enough water. At the same time, other reports are saying consumers should not worry about their daily water intake levels. With all this confusion, it’s not surprising that the average person is not only confused, but also frustrated by so many conflicting reports.

People want to make healthy, lifestyle choices for themselves and their families, but it is difficult to figure out the facts. To make matters worse, people are having these difficulties with other equally conflicting reports about a host of nutritional and healthy living studies. Consumers can sort through all of this conflicting information and make sensible decisions with a little time, patience and flexibility.

What’s With the Water and Losing Weight?

Last year Brenda Davy, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at Virginia Tech, presented a study to the American Chemical Society. She stated that her clinical trials showed that drinking water before a meal may reduce the amount of calories a person consumes. She further stated that this appears to be age related, in that older people experienced more weight loss than the younger people did.

A number of media sources reported this particular study. This study appears impressive until a person views the actual study, which involved only 48 people for 12 months. In terms of scientific research, a sample of 48 is rather small. The weight difference between water drinking dieters and the other dieters in the study showed a 4-pound difference over 12 weeks, with an additional weight loss of one or two pounds the rest of the year. With a small study group and a relatively short study time, there could simply be other factors to explain weight loss. Before a person changes his entire lifestyle based a single study, it may be prudent to do some more digging.

Water Intake

The health care industry in America recommends that a healthy diet should include the consumption of 6 to 8 glasses (approximately 64 fluid ounces) of water per day. This number appears to be a health industry standard whenever the topic is researched in both standard texts and popular media. It is interesting to note that even this data is now being questioned due to the lack of scientific research to support this recommendation. Research has shown however, that water intake is variable based on an individual’s mass, activity and environmental conditions. No research has ever shown that drinking clean water poses a health risk. The debate in some circles lies with how much is enough.

One ABC news report on the popular program, “Good Morning America,” discussed the debate about proper water intake. Dr. Margaret McCartney, a Scottish physician, believes that the notion that people need to drink more water may in fact be directly linked to the beverage industry as a marketing strategy to sell more bottled water.  She recommends drinking water based on individual needs and thirst levels.  Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania, also agrees that there is no evidence that Americans need to drink more water. How can consumers sort through these facts?

A simple search produced a report published by the International Bottled Water Association in 2009. The report stated that bottled water companies in the United States sold more than 8.5 million gallons of water annually. The revenues were in excess of $10 million.  If Americans drink less bottled water, it would directly affect the bottled water industry. Consumers must consider those types of facts when looking at any kind of study or report.

Sifting Through the Facts

Consumers can weigh the quality and accuracy of information by asking themselves questions about the reports they read. Listed below are a few key points for people to consider when hearing about the latest reports or findings.

1.      Know the origins of a study or claim.  Determine if the research was produced or funded by the industry, or an independent researcher.

2.      Are there other investigations and studies that have similar conclusions?

3.      Is the report based on a specific study or popular hype?

4.      Who will economically benefit from the study, and is the study part of a marketing plan?

5.      If the report makes a claim that goes against current scientific based research, do careful follow-up research of your own.