H2O: How It’s Helping Fight the War on Obesity
We’ve been fighting the “battle of the bulge” in America for decades. Our growing waistlines have spawned an endless stream of diets, pills, and potions to help us shed excess pounds. In the early 1980s Jane Fonda’s workout video (aptly titled Workout) grew to become one of the best-selling VHS tapes of all time, and low-fat diets were the craze. In the 90s the Atkins diet trend took hold. In the early 2000s it was the South Beach Diet. Today the eat-like-your-cavemen-ancestors Paleo diet is all the rage.
Yet, for all the sweat, tears, and hard-earned money we’ve poured into fat-blasting fads, it seems there is no magic pill or diet to solve the ever-growing problem of obesity. The cliché “eat right and exercise” mantra just isn’t working—the proof is all around us.
Obesity by the Numbers
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than a third (34.9 percent) of U.S. adults are obese today.1 On our current trajectory obesity could affect 42 percent of American adults by the year 2030.2 The numbers are also bleak for children; 17 percent (12.7 million) of them are obese in the U.S., according to the CDC.3 The question is, why has obesity become such a problem?
The short answer is that obesity is a complex, multi-faceted condition.
Genes, metabolism, lifestyle, culture, medical conditions, food quality and availability, environment, socioeconomic status, and even the makeup of a person’s gut microbiome all determine a person’s propensity for obesity.
Genes Load the Gun, Environment Pulls the Trigger
In fact, there’s a whole scientific field devoted to understanding the interplay between a person’s genes and their environment: It’s called epigenetics. A common metaphor for epigenetics is “genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.” In other words, a person’s genetic makeup doesn’t necessarily determine their destiny; they may have a genetic predisposition for a certain disease, but only if or when they are exposed to the environmental trigger will the disease manifest.
A Weight Loss Aid Hidden in Plain Sight?
It’s clear that no one thing is a panacea when it comes to preventing obesity, but could it be that an effective but overlooked weight loss promoter has been right in front of us all along?
Yep, we’re talking about plain old H2O. Look no further than your tap (or better yet, a good water filtration system) for weight loss help.
Ahead we’ll explore the benefits of drinking water as part of an overall weight loss strategy. We’ll also look at problems caused by dehydration; how much water a person needs to drink to stay healthy, hydrated, and boost weight loss; and we’ll explore foods that can help you meet your daily H2O needs.
The Data’s In: Water Promotes Weight Loss
It has long been thought that water could help with weight control, but until fairly recently there were few systematic studies to prove it. The following studies provide strong evidence for water’s metabolism-boosting properties.
- A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking water can increase your metabolic rate by as much as 30 percent.4
- Another study involving overweight women aged 25-50 looked at the effects of increasing water intake over a 12-month period. The result: an extra 4.4 pounds of weight loss.5
- In another study, 50 overweight girls who imbibed 1,500 ml (around 51 ounces, or 6.5 cups) of water per day, over and above their normal intake, lost weight.6
Beyond weight loss, water provides the following benefits:
- Headache relief
- Reduced risk of cramping and sprains
- Improved skin tone and texture
- Better thermoregulation
- Reduced risk of heart disease7
How Much Water Do You Need?
The rule used to be 8×8 (8 eight-ounce glasses of water per day). Yet, this one-size-fits-all approach never made much sense; after all, it seems unlikely that a 110- pound woman would have precisely the same hydration needs as a 220-pound man. Your water needs will depend on your weight and activity level, as well as the geography (e.g., elevation; dry or humid climate) where you live, the local weather conditions, and sun exposure.
As a general rule the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends 11 cups of water per day for healthy women and 15 cups for healthy men from all food and beverages. An expert weighing in on webmd.com suggested drinking between 0.5 and 1 ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. That means a 130-pound woman would need 65 to 130 ounces (roughly 8 to 16 cups) of water per day, and even more if she lives in a hot climate.
Look Inside the (Toilet) Bowl
The color of your urine is a solid indicator of how hydrated you are. If your urine is amber or honey-colored, for example, you need water—and pronto. If it’s completely clear, on the other hand, you may be getting too much water (yes, it can happen). This infographic published by the Cleveland Clinic will help you determine what the color of your urine says about your state of hydration at any given time.
What Happens When We Get Dehydrated?
We all know that water is essential, and that humans can only survive for a matter of days without it, but the consequences of chronic low to moderate dehydration may not be as clear. Have a headache? Constipation? It could be dehydration. Other signs and symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry skin
- Sticky/dry mouth
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Minimal urine
- Muscle cramps
- Few or no tears/dry eyes
If you have any of these symptoms, and your urine is dark, drink some H2O!
“But Water Is So Boring”
We hear you. Plain water can be kind of unexciting, but, thankfully, it’s easy to liven it up. Here are some ideas:
- Add a squeeze of real lemon or lime juice to plain water.
- Infuse unsweetened still or sparkling water with fruit (try berries, citrus, or melon).
- Pour in a splash of cranberry juice or orange juice to plain unsweetened sparkling water.
- Make ice cubes from no-sugar-added fruit juice, and add to unsweetened still or sparkling water.
- Steep mint leaves in water before drinking.
- Freeze mandarin/clementine/tangelo slices and add to plain water.
Tip: To avoid introducing pesticides to your water when adding fruit, choose organic when possible, or wash produce well. Refer to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Clean Fifteen list to know which fruits have the lowest chemical loads.
Eat Your Water
Your daily water intake includes the water you get from food. Take advantage of summer’s bounty and “eat” your water with these H2O-packed fruits and veggies:
|· Cucumber||· Spinach|
|· Watermelon||· Mango|
|· Zucchini||· Grapefruit|
|· Bell pepper||· Celery|
|· Pear||· Grapes|
|· Pineapple||· Berries|
|· Carrot||· Kiwi|
|· Apple||· Orange|
|· Tomato||· Apricot|
|· Lettuce||· Cantaloupe|
Soups, yogurt, tomato-based sauces, and veggie stir fries are all additional sources of water from food. For an occasional treat, all-natural popsicles are a good choice.
More H2O Tips
Drinking water before a meal can help reduce the likelihood of overeating and reduce your calorie intake—aim for 2 cups of water before each meal.
Another good rule is to drink water every two hours. Rather than chugging glass after glass of water all at once, spacing out water consumption will ensure that you are hydrated throughout the day, which (ironically) allows your body to rid itself of excess water weight.
Why Water Filtration Is a Must: Pollutants in Tap Water
Despite city, state, and federal regulations (including the Safe Water Act), it is not uncommon for tap water to be contaminated by heavy metals, agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, and even pharmaceutical drugs.8,9,10,11
Reverse osmosis systems can help remove many of the common contaminants and additives found in tap water, including lead, copper, chloride, fluoride, radium, phosphorous, and other metals and contaminants. Water quality varies considerably from one place to the next. Invest in a whole house water filter system to protect your family’s health or, if you’re a business owner, a water filtration system or water delivery service for your employees.
Who knew the stuff that’s essential to our survival can also help keep excess pounds at bay? Raise your glass (of water) and make a toast to good health!