When you're feeling peckish and have the urge to snack on junk food, rather have a glass of water instead. Not only will this keep you hydrated, it helps your muscles to work more efficiently, and will also stave away those hunger pangs to help you keep your weight under control.
In a recent study involving 10,000 adults, ranging in age from 18 to 64, researchers show that drinking lots of water, together with eating fruit and veggies with a high water content, not only keeps our bodies hydrated but can assist with weight control, especially for those of us who are overweight and can afford to lose a few pounds.
According to Dr Tammy Chang, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, and lead author of the study: "Staying hydrated is good for you no matter what, and our study suggests it may also be linked to maintaining a healthy weight. Our findings suggest that hydration may deserve more attention when thinking about addressing obesity on a population level."
Dehydration can affect our physical, emotional and mental well being, causing headaches, kidney problems and constipation, as well as negatively impacting our moods, memory and ability to pay attention.
But, according to Chang, the amount of water consumed is not necessarily a clear indicator of hydration, as the amount of water needed to keep hydrated varies from person to person and is affected by factors such as body size, activity levels and the climate where we live and work.
"Imagine if you were a landscaper in Arizona versus a receptionist in Michigan," explains Chang. "The amount of water it takes to stay hydrated will be drastically different."
For this study, the researchers looked at hydration from a new angle — it's not so much the volume of water that you drink, but how hydrated your body becomes after doing so. In order to assess that, they analyzed urine samples of study participants to measure water concentrations.
When we are hydrated our heart is able to pump blood to our muscles more efficiently, which in turn enables them to work more efficiently. The research team found that keeping hydrated was particularly important for those of us with a body mass index (BMI) score higher than 25, which is considered overweight. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, two thirds of the American population fall on this end of the BMI scale, which in effect means that many of us could benefit from being better hydrated.
"We found hydration and BMI/obesity are associated. A bigger person needs more water than a smaller person to stay hydrated," said Chang. "It could be that those people with higher BMI are more likely to be inadequately hydrated or that those that stay well hydrated are less likely to be obese."
In another study, researchers tested how drinking water before a meal affects the stomach and brain to influence feelings of satiety. They found that participants who drank more water felt less hungry before eating the meal, and fuller afterwards.
Drinking water has obvious health benefits, and it appears that it can help with weight control too. However, bear in mind that water can also contain contaminants that can be harmful to our health. The best option is to drink lots of purified water. For optimal health, invest in a good quality drinking water filter that can remove a wide range of harmful water pollutants to provide you with a source of pure healthy drinking water to keep your body hydrated.
Chang et al. Inadequate Hydration, BMI, and Obesity Among US Adults: NHANES 2009–2012. Ann Fam Med July/August 2016 vol. 14 no. 4 320-324. doi: 10.1370/afm.1951