20101125

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Dieters have been encouraged to employ this trick for ages, with the reasoning quite simple: the water fills the stomach, thus reducing hunger. But only in recent years have studies borne this out.

In the most recent, a randomized trial published in the journal
Obesity in February, scientists at Virginia Tech followed a group of overweight subjects age 55 and up on low-calorie diets for about three months. Half the people were told to drink two cups of water before every meal. At the end of the study, the water group had lost an average of 15.5 pounds, compared with 11 pounds in the other group.

A 2008 study
showed a similar effect, finding a 13 percent reduction in calorie intake in overweight subjects who consumed water before breakfast. But a third study, this one in 2007, had a peculiar finding: drinking water 30 minutes before a meal reduced calorie intake and feelings of hunger in older adults, but had little effect on subjects under 35. It’s not clear why, but the researchers pointed out that because older adults are at increased risk of being overweight and obese, further studies should determine whether this is effective for the aging population.

Studies show
the average person gains about a pound between Thanksgiving and January. Most adults gain one to two pounds a year over a lifetime, so staving off the holiday pound can go a long way.

THE BOTTOM LINE Drinking water before a meal can reduce calorie intake, though the effect seems most prominent in older people. ANAHAD O’CONNOR
scitimes@nytimes.com



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