Is Lemon Water Good for You?

Is Lemon Water Good for You?

How often have you heard that you should start your day by drinking a glass of lemon water? When life gives you lemons, definitely make lemonade. But are the claims that lemon...

How often have you heard that you should start your day by drinking a glass of lemon water? When life gives you lemons, definitely make lemonade. But are the claims that lemon water helps you lose weight justified? This article discusses these claims and debunks the ones that talk about the miraculous effects of lemon water, while also focusing on why lemon water, and lemon in general, can be good for your health according to nutrition science. 

Health benefits of lemon water

Lemon water is an instant homemade fix for a beverage. It adds that nice sweet and sour flavour to your regular water. But lemon water is more than just a beverage. Lemon water is packed with a number of health benefits. Some of these absolutely necessary and noteworthy benefits are mentioned below:

  1. Source of hydration - Water is synonymous with life. A chemical in nature, composed of oxygen and hydrogen, it is extremely essential for our survival as it does more than just quench our thirst. Water helps your body by acting as a thermoregulator by maintaining a normal temperature. When the body becomes too hot, the water present in the body is lost through sweat. The evaporation of this sweat from the surface of our skin helps remove the heat from our bodies. Water also helps transport nutrients across the body, removing waste products in the form of urine and acting as a cushion for muscles and joints. Hydration also supplies fresh oxygen to brain cells to remain alert. Dehydration on the other hand can affect our consciousness, impair the brain’s processing ability and affect our physical performance. [1] [2] [3]

Often people do not like the taste of plain water which is why fruits like lemon are added to it. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Dietary Guidelines for Indians, a healthy, sedentary person should drink 2 litres of water every day. Adding lemon just makes it easy for many to reach this quantity of water consumption.

  1. Source of vitamin C - Lemon is a great source of vitamin C. [4] Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen fibers, which play an important role in wound healing. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which protects the body from the detrimental effects of free radicals and toxins. Free radicals can adversely affect proteins, lipids and DNA and trigger a number of diseases. [5] Vitamin C also converts cholesterol into bile acids, thereby lowering blood cholesterol levels. Vitamin C is also known to increase the absorption of iron. Deficiency in vitamin C can lead to scurvy, anaemia, poor wound healing, infections and bleeding gums. [6] [7]
  1. May aid digestion - Drinking lemon water may help in improving digestion. Lemon has vitamin C which increases bile acid secretion. Bile acids are present in the gastrointestinal tract and play a vital role in the digestion of nutrients. [8] The citric acid found in lemon also boosts gastric acid secretion, which is a fluid produced in the stomach that initiates digestion. [9] A study conducted in 2021 showed that drinking lemon water before meals for 4 weeks resulted in promoting digestion and peristalsis, which is a series of wave-like contractions that move your food through the digestive tract. [10] This study proved that the citric acid in lemon juice improves indigestion because promotes gastric acid function. Having said that, the study was based on a small group of male university students. To fully understand the efficacy of lemon water or lemon in general for digestion, a large-scale study needs to be conducted. 
  1. May prevent kidney stones - Lemon water may help prevent kidney stones because of the citric acid present in lemon. Citrate, a derivative of citric acid, plays a role here. Kidney stones are essentially hard deposits of minerals and salts that form inside the kidney. Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones that form when there is too much oxalate and too little water in the kidney. [11]  Citrate combines with calcium in the kidney and inhibits the growth of calcium oxalate crystals. [12] Supplementation with other citrate salts such as potassium citrate, potassium-sodium citrate and potassium-magnesium citrate can be effective in preventing and treating calcium-oxalate stones. However, a study showed that lemon juice can be as effective as potassium citrate in the treatment of kidney stones. [13] [14] 
  1. May support skin health - Both lemon and water are good for your skin, whether or not you have them together. Lemon is rich in vitamin C, which is essential for the synthesis of collagen fibers. Collagen is a protein that determines skin physiology. It is responsible for the elasticity and strength of the skin. [15] A study also showed that vitamin C is also associated with a better skin-aging appearance through the reduction of wrinkles and dryness. [16]

Debunking claims about lemon water 

While lemon water has some remarkable health benefits, a few claims about lemon water are totally outlandish and have not been proven by nutrition science. These include:

  1. Promotes weight loss - Lemon contains pectin, which is a type of fiber that may help reduce appetite and calorie intake. Pectin can aid in weight management by reducing food intake. However, lemon water is basically diluted lemon juice, which leaves the lemon water with only trace amounts of pectin. Besides, there is no additional evidence or study to show that lemon water has any more benefits than plain water for weight loss. [17]
  1. Detoxifies your body - Lemon water is not a magic potion that will help in detoxifying your body. The human body has its ways to detoxify itself naturally. The kidney helps in detoxification by eliminating toxins from the blood to the urine, the liver helps in detoxification by changing the chemical nature of many toxins and the digestive tract helps in detoxification by removing toxins by either vomit or stool. The way the liver works is that it breaks down the toxins or excess nutrients and eliminates them via the kidney which then flushes them out through urine. [18] There are no studies to support the efficacy of lemon water in the detoxification of your body. 

Does lemon water cause any possible harm?

Lemon water also has some adverse effects that magnify if you tend to consume more. In such cases, it is better to cut down on your consumption of lemon water. Some of these cases are:

  • Since lemons are highly acidic, frequent exposure can lead to teeth erosion, which is damage caused to the enamel of your teeth. [19] You may use a straw to drink lemon water to avoid direct acidic exposure to your teeth and rinse your teeth (not brush) right after drinking lemon water to cut down on the risk of tooth decay. Brushing your teeth immediately after drinking lemon water can erode the enamel because your teeth are still under an acid attack and brushing it will only make the acid soften the enamel. Therefore, allow your teeth to remineralize for an hour at least. 
  • Some people may suffer from heartburn, nausea and vomiting due to lemon water because citrus fruits like lemon are known to cause gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by increasing gastric acid production. [20] So, always be mindful of the limits of your body.  

What can be concluded from this discussion?

Most of us don’t drink as much water as we should so adding lemon to your water will only make you drink it more often if you are fond of that flavour. But by not adding lemon to your water you are not missing out on anything important. Sure, lemon water does have some significant health benefits but you can get the same benefits by adding lemon juice to your food as well.