Based on the fact that about two thirds of our bodies are comprised of water, it may seem obvious that consuming water is important for our health. But a new study finds that by increasing plain water consumption, we can control our weight and reduce intakes of sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
The study, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, is led by Prof. Ruopeng An, from the University of Illinois.
Though most people meet their body’s fluid requirements by drinking plain water and other beverages, we also get some fluids through certain foods, such as soup broths, celery, tomatoes and melons.
To further investigate how increasing water intake can affect parameters of health, the researchers used a nationally representative sample of more than 18,300 adults in the US from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2012.
The researchers asked participants to recall all foods and drinks they consumed on 2 days that were between 3-10 days apart.
Prof. An then calculated the amount of plain water that each participant consumed as a percentage of daily dietary water intake from both foods and drinks.
Although drinks such as black tea, herbal tea and coffee were not assessed as sources of plain water, Prof. An did include their water content in the calculations of total water consumption.
Promoting water consumption: a public health strategy
On a daily basis, the participants consumed an average of about 4.2 cups of plain water, which accounts for just over 30% of their total water consumption.
The average calorie intake for each participant was 2,157 calories, which included 125 calories from sugar-sweetened beverages and 432 calories from “discretionary foods” – desserts, pastries, snack mixes and other foods that are not essential.
The results of the study revealed that people who increased their consumption of plain water by one to three cups daily lowered total energy intake by 68-205 calories each day and their sodium intake by 78-235 g each day.
For purposes of the study, “plain water” was defined as water from a tap, cooler, drinking fountain or bottle.
Further results showed that the people who increased their water consumption also consumed 5-18 g less sugar, as well as 7-21 g less cholesterol.
“This finding indicates that it might be sufficient to design and deliver universal nutrition interventions and education campaigns that promote plain water consumption in replacement of beverages with calories in diverse population subgroups without profound concerns about message and strategy customization,” says Prof. An.
He and his team add that these effects were similar across race, ethnicity, education attainment, income level and body weight status, however, they were larger among males than females, and among young or middle-aged adults than older adults.
Prof. An suggests these differences could have been linked with the higher daily calorie intakes associated with men and young or middle-aged adults.
The researchers conclude their study by noting that “promoting plain water intake could be a useful public health strategy for reducing energy and targeted nutrient consumption in US adults, which warrants confirmation in future controlled interventions.”