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I was editing my next book the other day and there's a section where I talk about what to drink. When I am speaking with patients I always urge folks to think about what they are drinking. There are so many options and, unfortunately, most of them filled with empty calories. For years when I talk about diet with people the topic of what to drink always comes up. I have always said "water, coffee and tea." They're great choices – delicious and calorie free.
There's a lot of temptation out there though. It seems like there's a vending machine everywhere full of drinks with calories. It's not just soda but juices and flavored teas also. And not a few calories but a lot. A 20 ounce soda contains 240 calories while a 16 ounce juice is about the same (that's about 15 teaspoons of sugar). Coffee is a great choice but with all of the enhanced, flavored versions sold in coffee shops there's risk for you with many of them being well over 500 calories.
For a long time people have recommended drinking 8 glasses of water per day for optimum health. There's also the idea that filling up on water can help you lose weight. The interesting thing is that we just haven't had good research about what the optimum amount of water intake is. The best recommendation we have right now is to let thirst be your guide. I'd like to know what is the healthiest amount of water but we just don't. There is, however, recent research that looks at whether drinking water can help you lose weight.
Dr. Brenda Davy and her colleagues looked at 48 adults over the course of a 12 week low-calorie diet plan. (Amer Chem Soc 2010, August 23). Half of the participants drank 2 cups of water before each meal while the other half did not. At the end of the study the water drinkers had lost around 15 1/2 pounds and the non-water drinkers only 11 pounds. That's amazing! An extra 30% weight loss just by drinking 2 cups of water before every meal.
I just love good quality research especially when it's as useful as this from Dr. Davy. It's nice when things go from being an "old wives tale" to solid, usable information. If you are working on losing weight, water is now a powerful, proven tool that's cheap, easy, calorie free, natural and good for you.
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.