Most of us cannot sit through our meals without having a glass of water. While drinking a few sips in between is absolutely fine, it is believed that having too much water during meals is not a very good idea. Studies show that it is advisable to have a glass or two of water 30 minutes before your meal or 30 minutes after. But is it ok to drink water during meals? Well, here is what you need to know.
Drinking Water During Meals: Myths & Facts
Water is great for your skin, bowel movement, digestion, and overall health. You should have at least 2 liters of water a day and if you’re in a hot city then 3-4 liters a day is a must. However, it is believed that drinking water during meals is not a good idea because of certain misconceptions. Here are some of the common reasons (people believe) why you should NOT drink water with meals.
1. It May Affect Digestion
People believe that drinking water during your meal basically has an adverse effect on digestion, starting from reducing the amount of saliva in your mouth. Reduced saliva sends weaker signals to your stomach which ends up impacting the release of gastric juices and enzymes. So absorbing and breaking down of food is hindered from the moment you sip water while eating your meal.
But contrary to this belief, studies show that there is no influence on drinking water on actual food intake during and after a meal.
2. It May Slow Down Absorption Of Nutrients
It is also believed that by diluting gastric juices vital to fighting infectious substances, you are also preventing food from breaking down properly. When digestive enzymes in your stomach are diluted with water, your food will sit in your stomach for longer. It may pass through the small intestine at a slower pace with fewer nutrients being absorbed.
However, this is just an assumption and not proven in any research study. So the role of water in lowering nutrient absorption is not fully understood.
3. It Can Cause Acidity
Drinking water is believed to cause acidity because your stomach will absorb as much water as it can while you are eating and drinking. This can dilute gastric juices and slow down the process of digestion. With undigested food sitting in your system, the result is acid reflux and heartburn.
But there are no studies yet to prove the effect. So the role of drinking water between meals in increasing the risk of acidity cannot be taken into consideration.
4. It May Cause Weight Gain
Another popular belief of drinking water is its effect on gastric juices and its ability to increase the amount of insulin in your body leading to weight gain. This is claimed to be because when your body is not able to digest food well it gets converted into fat and stored in the body. Also, diluted gastric juices cause food to be absorbed slowly which in turn is converted into fat, causing you to put on weight.
There are numerous online sites that claim drinking water during meals is not a good idea as it can cause weight gain but no research study supports the claim.
Drinking Water With Meals: What Research Says?
In reality, there are no research studies that suggest drinking water during meals is a bad idea. There are no studies which claim that water interferes with digestion, dilutes the stomach acid and enzymes or can lead to weight gain. But there are studies which say no to drinking water during meals for people suffering from gastro-esophageal reflux disease(GERD). A 2014 study said that people with GERD should not have liquids with meals. This is because liquids add volume to the stomach which can increase the pressure in the belly just like how eating a heavy meal does to the stomach. This, in turn, can increase the risk of acid reflux further worsening the condition of those with GERD.
As far as weight gain is concerned, studies have revealed that consuming sugary drinks, milk or juice along with meals, can up your overall caloric intake and put you at risk of weight gain. According to the study, drinking beverages that contain calories such as sweetened drinks or juices with meals can increase the total calorie intake to around 8-15%, thus leading to weight gain. However, drinking plain water with meals showed no such effect.
On the contrary, a study conducted in the year 2015 showed that drinking at least 500 ml of water around 30 minutes before meals can help you lose weight. As per the study, 43 obese adults who were made to drink 500 ml of water before their main meals had lost 1.3 kg in just 12 weeks. So if you are on a weight loss diet and exercising to shed weight, then this trick can help you accelerate your weight loss. However, do consult your nutritionist before you do so to weigh the pros and cons in depth.
Bottom line: As there are no significant research studies on the negative impact of drinking water on digestion and weight gain, it can be said that it is up to you to decide whether you have to drink water with meals or not. If you are experiencing any discomfort while having liquids with meals, then it is best to stick to drinking water before or after meals. Otherwise, there is no reason to stop drinking water with meals.
However, people with GERD should stay away from doing so or ask their doctor about the same. Also, avoid having other forms of liquids like juices or sugary drinks with meals as it is not good for the health and may even cause weight gain.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)
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