Water Before Meal Stymies Overeating
In my book, True Nutrition—European Secrets for American Women, I emphasize the importance of drinking water before meals. It’s a great way to hit two targets with one stone; you’ll ensure hydration, and you’ll curb your appetite. I also recommend not drinking during your meal, as an aid to digestion. Digestion occurs in the stomach, as food is broken down into its constituents. The process relies on extremely strong acid, produced naturally by the stomach. Drinking too much during a meal may dilute stomach acids, slowing the digestion process.
According to researchers at the University of Birmingham, drinking one-half liter of water about 30 minutes before eating a meal can result in eating significantly less. Subjects in the study were obese adults. All subjects received counseling regarding healthy eating and lifestyle practices that can help people achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Half of the subjects were instructed to “imagine your stomach is full,” while the other half was directed to drink 500 mL of tap water, half an hour before consuming a meal. On-half liter is equivalent to about 2.1 cups, or one-half quart of water.
After three months, subjects who “pre-loaded” with water before eating lost an average of about three pounds more than subjects who did not drink before eating. Preloading with water before each of the day’s three meals resulted in greater weight loss than drinking before one meal only, or not drinking water before a meal at all.
Dr Helen Parretti, NIHR Clinical Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, said, "The beauty of these findings is in the simplicity. Just drinking a pint of water, three times a day, before your main meals may help reduce your weight…When combined with brief instructions on how to increase your amount of physical activity and on a healthy diet, this seems to help people to achieve some extra weight loss -- at a moderate and healthy rate. It's something that doesn't take much work to integrate into our busy everyday lives.”
Although three pounds weight loss (on average) may not sound like much, any weight loss is better than additional weight gain. Dr Parretti added, "Losing a few extra pounds over the course of a year can be significant to an individual, and this could be an easy way to help with that weight loss. It's a simple message that has the potential to make a real contribution to public health."
Helen M. Parretti, Paul Aveyard, Andrew Blannin, Susan J. Clifford, Sarah J. Coleman, Andrea Roalfe, Amanda J. Daley. Efficacy of water preloading before main meals as a strategy for weight loss in primary care patients with obesity: RCT. Obesity, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/oby.21167