Similar to many mediterranean fruits, lemons are typically considered healthy. However, specific health benefits that are attributed to to lemon water are supported by feeble evidence.
OUR ANALYSIS WAS CORROBORATED BY PEER-REVIEWED SCIENTIFIC PAPERS.
When you realize you’re „off the road“ when it comes to eating healthy and leading a somewhat healthy lifestyle, there is one thing that almost everyone on the Internet recommends, saying that it is a quick and easy fix you could do every day. Lemon water has been popularized over the years and went from a simple summer drink to an all year-round youth elixir.
There are many articles about the benefits of lemon water and fruits are generally known as being healthy, but is lemon water really a healing nectar of Gods or just a refreshing drink?
We gathered all the common questions around lemon water and research data to debunk or support them.
Myth 1: Does lemon water detoxify your body?
Detoxification is usually defined as a time of purification. During that time, your body gets rid of toxins and unhealthy substances.
Our bodies do accumulate toxicants, and people often think that doing „detox diets “would help clean those toxins out of their system. While some nutrients and bioactive agents from nutrition could help the enzymes responsible for detoxification in the liver, such as sulforaphane and limonene (an important molecule found in lemons), your liver, kidneys, lungs and other organs work constantly to “detoxify” you and do most of the job.
Feasible quantity of limonene and other lemon components are still unknown and hence, we can’t indicate it to the greater detoxing benefits.
VERDICT: Detoxifying the body can’t be directly connected to the lemon and components found in lemons. It’s still unknown whether it would detoxify the body, but studies have shown that some components could help the organs in that process.
Myth 2: Could lemon water energize you?
Drinking only a sip f lemon water makes you feel refreshed. But, is it only a placebo effect or is it actually backed up by science?
There is a claim that our environment consists of positive ions and citrate in lemon contains negative ions which could counterpart excess positive ions around us. Excess of positive ions is claimed to be a cause of illnesses (mostly be negative ions devices sellers).
In a placebo-controlled study by Perez V, Alexander DD, Bailey WH. who studied air ions and mood outcomes, the only mood parameter that showed a convincing improvement was depression. However, poor study quality limits our believing in the benefit. Even if inhaling negative ions help to treat depression, inhaling lemon oil as shown in these studies on lemon oil vapor and its anti-stress effect, rather than drinking lemon water, makes more sense.
Another thing lemons are widely known for is its content of vitamin C. Harsh emotional disturbances could be a result of a severe vitamin C deficiency, known as scurvy, where lemon water could be really helpful. On their long cruises, sailors would bring lemons and benefit from lemons’ preventative abilities.
Although, lemon water could help people who don’t scurvy, vitamin C is vital to our health, and it is not found only in lemons, but in other food we eat every day.
Verdict: Studies that show lemon water can affect your mood are of poor quality, based on yet not proven claims.
Myth 3: Can lemon water help your gut and digestion?
Stomach acids play a big role in a normal function of digestion. They aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids. After you a eat fatty foods, the gallbladder is triggered and releases bile acids. In a study of Cherng SC where acceleration of hepatobiliary excretion by lemon juice was observed, lemon juice increased bile-acid secretion, but the effects on the digestion were vague.
Some may say that that the citric acid in lemon juice can improve digestion by supplementing your stomach acid, but this claim is not backed up by any scientific studies. Unless you have a disease called hyperchlorhydria (your organism can’t produce enough stomach acid), parietal cells in your cells can do all the job and produce enough acid that is needed for the right effects on digestion.
Acidic foods per se could reduce the rate of gastric emptying as show in a study by Hunt JN and Knox MT, where they studied the slowing of gastric emptying by four strong acids and three weak acids. These acidic food have an effect on better absorption of micronutrients and a slower absorption of carbohydrates.
Another benefits of lemons people often mention is fiber, However, even with its peel, lemon doesn’t have enough fiber to be beneficial.
Verdict: Improving nutrient absorption, slowing gastric emptying and reducing postprandial glucose are possible perks lemon water could bring, but at this time there is no evidence lemon water could help digestion.
Myth 4: Does lemon water protect from acidic diets?
The idea that SAD (the Standard American Diet) promotes many diseases as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases by making the blood too acidic has become more popular over the last few years. There are many tips and tricks that people think work to bring your body’s pH into balance, and one of the most frequent is lemon water.
Even though pH levels could not be that easily manipulated, many people still believe that their one meal could affect the blood levels.
If your blood pH is too low (too acidic) or too high (too alkaline), you are in a life-threatening situation; but don’t worry yet! Blood pH is regulated by your body’s built in buffering system that was observed in a study by Hamm LL, Nakhoul N and Hering-Smith KS where they observed acid-base homeostasis.
Some people believe that having a higher blood pH is a way to go, as Schwalfenberg GK in his study about the alkaline diet, but the evidence is weak and involves either diets with high fruit and vegetable doses or supplementation, which can both affect the blood’s pH.
As the study with a single volunteer conducted by Oussama A, Touhami M and Mbarki M. who took a look into a In vitro and in vivo study of effect of lemon juice on urinary lithogenesis has shown us, 50ml of lemon juice raised urine pH from 6.7 ± 0.1 to 6.9 ± 0.1. The result of increased blood pH was negligible.
Even though lemon juice is acidic, it can produce alkaline metabolites in your body and hence has a negative PRAL (potential renal acid load). But lemon juice isn’t the only fruit that has these abilities; as a matter of fact, lemon juice’s PRAL is -2.5, and comparison wise, raisins’ PRAL is -21.
Verdict: Even though lemon water is believed to help countereffect acidic diets, it does not have a potential to change blood’s pH. Your body is the only mechanism responsible for managing blood’s pH.
Myth 5: Lemon water promotes weight loss?
Today, we often see these quick diets that promise quick results. One diet that was widely popularized by Beyoncé, is lemon water diet. You basically drink only water for a prolonged period of time. It combines fasting, but not only water and food, but only lemon water. People see great results on these diets. While fasting is not the theme we are talking about today, what is so special about lemon water to use it as a weight loos booster? Wouldn’t we lose weight even without the when we are not eating anything for several days?
On these diets, most of the quick weight that sheds off in the first few days is water weight, rather than fat. This was studies by Kreitzman SN, Coxon AY and Szaz KF in a study about Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. Only after, when we pursue caloric deficit, weight loss occurs. Carbohydrate deprivation means that after not eating carbs, our body doesn’t use them as a fuel anymore, but rather after depleting all the glycogen stores, turns to burning fat who produce ketones, who may give more energy than carbohydrates. One gram of stored glycogen in your muscles and liver binds to three grams of water.
Have you ever felt that, if you drink a glass of water before your meal, you are suddenly fuller quicker? There are a few studies that observed this particular subject. Van Walleghen EL conducted that Pre-meal water consumption reduces meal energy intake in older but, interestly enough, not in younger subjects. Parretti HM observed Efficacy of water preloading before main meals as a strategy for weight loss in primary care patients with obesity: RCT, while Davy BM studies how water consumption reduces energy intake at a breakfast meal in obese older adults.
If you really like how lemon water tastes, it could be a great way to drink more water, which could have a positive effect on weight loss.
Fukuchi Y studied Lemon Polyphenols and found that they Suppress Diet-induced Obesity by Up-Regulation of mRNA Levels of the Enzymes Involved in beta-Oxidation in Mouse White Adipose Tissue, but it’s still not known if it has any correlations with humans and beta-oxidation in human tissue.
Even as still not enough explored phenomena in weight loss, lemon water can help for thing for sure, and that is: help you replace highly caloric and sugary drinks with a simple, yet effective and delicious lemon water cocktail. There are many variations, using carbonated water, non-caloric sweetener or if you like sour taste, then without. You could also add a little min tor cinnamon, which makes it even greater.
Verdict: If you don’t drink enough water, lemon water can help you to reach the recommended daily intake of water, which can lead to, if you’re an adult, eating less.
Myth 6: Could cancer and CVD be treated with lemon water?
Cardiovascular diseases and cancer could be affected in a positive way by phytochemicals found in lemons. However, it is tempting to jump to conclusions, mixing prevention with treatment, as it was in this study by Jenkins DJA where he studied Supplemental Vitamins and Minerals for CVD Prevention and Treatment.
Even when a compound found in some foods looks promising in a human study, the benefits of that compound are often in a higher dosage than that found in food. For example, it was reported by an RCT that 500 mg of hesperidin per day has a chance to reduce inflammatory risk factors for heart disease, as mentioned in the study by Homayouni F. , and to lower blood pressure. But there is a problem with dosage, since 100 ml of lemon juice contains only 20.5 mg of hesperidin. Hence, the studies were inconsistent, and one study showed that 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (15ml) didn’t affect blood pressure or lipids. Maybe a dosage that’s higher could be beneficial, but how much, we don’t know.
There are many food that contain phytochemicals that could help cell in fighting cancer, but again, there seems to be reappearing problem of the dosage.
Verdict: Even though lemons contain phytochemicals, the dosage in lemon water is not enough for it to be beneficial.
Myth 7: Does lemon water prevent colds?
Most people, when they get a cold, automatically make tons of lemonade and drink vitamin C. Vitamin C is great for reducing the duration of colds, but only when taken religiously, not only when you get sick. Lemon water does not have enough dosage of vitamin C to be effective as shown in a study by Hemilä H, Chalker E. where they observed Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold.
There are some chemicals in lemon, they may positively affect the immune system. In a study by Hamada M where Distribution and immune responses resulting from oral administration of D-limonene in rats was studied, it was founded that limonene can improve the ability of phagocytes to do what they are meant to, as well as some chemicals as hesperidin who can help a lot.
Verdict: Even though vitamin C could help with the duration of the cold, high enough dosages could not be achieved with only drinking lemon water.
Myth 8: Could lemon water help kidney stones?
Lemons do contain citric acid, and when citrate (a derivative of citric acid) is combined with the calcium in the kidneys, it could prevent the formation of calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate. If you have a condition called hypocitraturia (when urine is low in citrate), you could be at risk of developing kidney stones.
A dose of 85ml of lemon juice can increase urinary citrate as much as a treatment and a clinical dose of potassium citrate.
However, again, the effective doses for prevention are unknown.
Verdict: Preventing the formation and reducing the growth of kidney stones can be affected by citric-acid content in lemons.
Side Effects of Lemon Water
The erosion of tooth enamel is a thing to be concerned about. The acidic components of lemon juice could ruin you enamel by softening it, and then leading to their erosion, as mentioned in a study by Bartlett DW where he studied The association of tooth wear, diet and dietary habits in adults aged 18-30 years old,. Grando LJ also studied this topic where he did an In vitro study of enamel erosion caused by soft drinks and lemon juice in deciduous teeth analyzed by stereomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy.
One thing you can do to save your teeth is use a straw every time you drink it, especially if you are planning to drink lemon water every day. The very least thing you should do is avoiding brushing your teeth immediately after drinking lemon juice. Another thing that can be helpful, is chewing sugar-free gum. Fröhlich S, Maiwald HJ and Flowerdew G. proved this effect in a study called „Effect of gum chewing on the pH of dental plaque“.
Verdict: Erosive effect on tooth enamel is the only side effect of lemon water, however, it is preventable.
Are lemons really healthy?
Fruits are usually known as healthy, with their unique phytochemical profile. Lemons are eminent because of their acidity, low sugar content, unlike other fruits, and high citrate content. The chances are, however, that you won’t get all the micronutrients you need only from a small dose of lemon juice. Many studies are testing phytochemicals found in high doses of lemons, and identifying those studies with small doses of lemon juices could not be accurate.
Combining those phytochemicals found in lemon water, together, in conjunction with other plant food and phytochemicals found in them, could lead to a healthier diet and overall, healthier lifestyle.
Lemon juice is worth including in your diet, firstly, to make your diet a little more diverse, and secondly, because there is a chance that those phytochemicals could be beneficial, even though not enough of research is done yet.
In summary, lemons have the best properties of fruits, while maintaining low sugar content, low calorie and high citrate content. Lemon water probably doesn’t contain enough micronutrients to only rely on it, but in conjunction with other foods, could be beneficial to your overall health.
- Effects of D-limonene
- Olfactory influences on mood and autonomic, endocrine, and immune function
- Poor vitamin C status is associated with increased depression symptoms following acute illness in older people.
- Air ions and mood outcomes: a review and meta-analysis
- Acceleration of hepatobiliary excretion by lemon juice on 99mTc-tetrofosmin cardiac SPECT.
- Acid-Base Homeostasis
- In vitro and in vivo study of effect of lemon juice on urinary lithogenesis
- Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition.
- Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults
- Effects of Advice to Drink 8 Cups of Water per Day in Adolescents With Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial.
- In vitro study of enamel erosion caused by soft drinks and lemon juice