Hot Water and Lemon: A Weight Loss Breakfast?

Downing a piping hot mug of tangy water may not sound appetizing, but what if it made it easier to shed unwanted weight?

Some claim that starting your day with a cup of hot water and lemon can help aid digestion and keep those pesky pounds at bay, but how well this cleansing method works is up for debate.

In 2008, former fitness consultant Theresa Cheung published “The Lemon Juice Diet,” which claimed that the zesty fruit can help you “lose those excess pounds and stay in shape for good.” The reason? “Lemon juice stimulates the flow of saliva and gastric juice and is an excellent digestive agent."

Drinking hot water and lemon every morning may not be a bad idea for those seeking to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. Pectin, a fiber found in fruits, contributes to a decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. And for those looking to trim the waistline, a 2007 study concluded that beverages including pectin were more likely to keep you feeling fuller longer.

But will it help you lose weight? Not all experts are convinced.

“I was unable to find current, scientific-based research linking hot water and lemon with weight loss or improved digestion,” explains Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a dietitian for Cleveland Clinic Wellness and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Since our body is approximately 60-70% water, it is reasonable to assume that consuming more water, while replacing other calorie laden beverages, may contribute to a calorie deficit and possibly improve weight loss efforts,” she adds.

Suzy Weems, a professor of nutrition at Baylor University in Texas, also believes that the lack of evidence makes this hot-water-with-lemon diet claim questionable.

“Sometimes this is recommended by naturalists, those who practice folk medicine, or simply friends and neighbors for morning consumption and sometimes as an evening ritual,” she states. “The claims for it are rather extensive and without scientific data to support them.”

But in comparison to coffee, which can pack on the pounds with added ingredients like sugar and milk, hot water and lemon may be a better option for those watching their weight.

“Hot water and lemon have not been shown to provide any significant benefit for weight loss. That said, many patients will use this combination as an alternative to a caloric beverage or food,” says John D. Hernried, an internist who specializes in weight management. “That said, with obesity at epidemic proportions, hot water and lemon are unlikely to provide significant health improvement in what is turning out to be a very complex metabolic disease.”

If losing weight is a major concern for you,  Jamieson-Petonic does recommend drinking plenty of water, but you don’t have to stick with lemons to enhance its flavor.

“Water is my first choice and I love to add flavor with basil, mint, strawberries, limes, or cucumbers,” she says.