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This Just In: Drinking Water Helps You Lose Weight
CHORI Scientists Present New Data Showing Hydration with Water Increases Fat Oxidization

"There are actually a whole host of studies that show that if you drink high calorie drinks you burn markedly less fat when you exercise."

CHORI clinical scientist, Jodi Stookey, PhD, and Alexis Klein, PhD from Danone Research, made waves at the annual Experimental Biology Conference in New Orleans this spring with their poster presentation on water and fat oxidation, which highlighted for the first time that drinking water instead of caloric beverages increases how much fat is burned. With adult and childhood obesity at epidemic proportions, with over 9 million children overweight in the United States, the data could have significant impact on nutritional approaches to weight loss.

“The nutrition community has said there is no scientific proof that water makes a difference to weight loss, that you’d have to do extensive research to have enough data to back that up, but there are actually a whole host of studies in the exercise physiology literature that have already been conducted that show that if you drink high calorie drinks you burn markedly less fat when you exercise,” explains Dr. Stookey.

The physiology studies Dr. Stookey analyzed were originally designed to investigate ways to improve athletic performance. They aimed at determining how to burn more carbohydrate and less fat to delay fatigue during prolonged exercise like marathons. But with a little shift in perspective, the same data could reveal a whole host of information about weight loss and water.

"When the same studies are looked at from a weight-loss perspective instead, we're left with only one question," says Dr. Stookey. "What are we waiting for? We should absolutely be telling people to drink water as part of losing weight. Carbohydrate and fat metabolism are linked like a see-saw. If you prioritize one, you suppress the other."

There are three essential steps to fat oxidation, which include the breaking down of the fat in the body, the transporting of the fat into the mitochondria, which is the furnace that burns the fat, and a trigger to turn the furnace on.

As Dr. Stookey, a nutrition epidemiologist who looks for relationships between diet, obesity and chronic disease, explains, "All three steps required for fat oxidation get the green light when insulin is low. All three get a red light when insulin is elevated even a little bit. It's not just a matter of reducing calories. When you eat even a little bit or drink even a few calories, your insulin blocks your fat burning."

Dr. Stookey's poster presentation gathered together data from nearly 30 different crossover studies originally conducted to show increased athletic performance when using high calorie drinks as opposed to water. By looking at plasma free fatty acids and the rates of fat oxidation, Dr. Stookey was able to show that drinking water consistently resulted in at least 40% more body fat breakdown and fat oxidation during low to moderate intensity exercise.
"All the studies reported a significant benefit of drinking water, in boys, girls, men and women, and it's not just soda that's a culprit - it's juice, it's milk, it's anything with calories."
"You don't need much insulin to inhibit the fat oxidation. If you want to lose weight, the best choice really is to drink water," says Dr. Stookey.

Dr. Stookey expects to see the results of the poster presentation in publication this summer, but in the mean time, Dr. Stookey is already involved in conducting a novel study to gather new data on how water intake impacts overweight children. The CHORI Water Study aims to measure whether there is less weight gain or more weight loss in overweight kids who drink different amounts of water instead of calorie drinks over a period of 6 months.

The CHORI Water Study has been underway for a little over a year, and aims to enroll 160 overweight children, who will receive free bottled water delivery for the 6 months of the study duration.
While Dr. Stookey expects to find that the kids who are drinking water will stop gaining weight, in order to lose weight, they would have to actually be drinking water at times they would also be burning fat - when insulin is low and/or when they exercise.

"That's the tricky part, because really the water should be paired with walking everyday for a half hour on an empty stomach," says Dr. Stookey. "We're telling all the kids all these things, but we don't know for sure what they'll actually do. People may not realize that if they eat or drink calories before they exercise they will burn the calories they just ate or drank instead of their body fat during exercise."

With the data from Dr. Stookey's poster presentation, however, Dr. Stookey feels no need to wait for more data before conclusively recommending that drinking water should be a part of any weight-loss regimen.

"Walk for an hour when you're fasting and you've had a glass of water," Dr. Stookey says, "and you'll burn more fat."

The CHORI Water Study will last 2 full years, and Dr. Stookey is still looking to recruit overweight children to participate. Click here for more information.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 8:19 AM

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