Water is a tame beverage with a tumultuous public-health history. For decades, doctors said we should be drinking eight glasses of the stuff each day. By the time Michelle Obama had built a campaign around water, the backlash had begun.
“There’s no real scientific proof that, for otherwise healthy people, drinking extra water has any health benefits,” Indiana University pediatrics professor Aaron E. Carroll wrote in The New York Times last year.
A new study suggests there is a benefit, though—a big one. Drinking water might just help you eat less. According to the paper, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, drinking more water is associated with eating fewer calories, as well as less sugar, salt, and cholesterol.
For the study, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at a dataset of 18,311 adults who were interviewed about everything they ate and drank on two different occasions, between three and 10 days apart. The amount of water each individual drank didn’t vary much between the two days. However, by running their answers through a simulation based on the entire dataset, the researchers found that an increase in daily plain water consumption by between one and three cups correlated with a reduction in daily total energy intake by between 69 and 206 calories. That might sound small, but 206 daily calories amounts to a pound of fat in about 17 days. There was also a reduction in sugar intake by between 6 and 18 grams, sodium by between 78 and 235 milligrams, and cholesterol by between 7 and 21 grams.