(RxWiki News) Aching to knock off four or five pounds pretty quickly and easily? Consider how many calories you might be drinking each day.
A new study reveals that a lifestyle decision as simple as switching from sugar-laden drinks like soft drinks and fruit juice to diet drinks or, better yet, water can have a noticeable effect on your waistline.
"Drink water instead of soft drinks."
Deborah Tate, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, led the study to find out whether reducing calories by swapping out beverages was a worthwhile recommendation for providers wanting to help their patients lose weight.
Tate's team divided 318 overweight or obese people into three groups. One group had been told to exchange their regular high-calorie beverages for diet drinks.
Another group was told to replace their drinks with water. The third group received information about healthy choices that could help weight loss but received no specific directions regarding changing what they typically drank.
Participants in all three groups attended monthly group sessions and could access a website set up specifically for them during a six month period.
Participants saw smaller waists and smaller numbers on the scale after six months regardless of what group they were in.
But the beverage switchers saw better improvements. Patients who changed their habits and drank calorie-free drinks more twice as likely to lose five percent or more of their body weight than those who did not receive advice on switching drinking habits.
Those who switched to water also had lower blood sugar, which made them less likely to develop conditions related to obesity, like type 2 diabetes. However, that doesn't mean water is the best option for all beverage-switichers.
"People who really like the sweet flavor or carbonation or caffeine of sodas may be more likely to stick with the change if they are drinking diet sodas as opposed to water only," Tate said.
"Substituting noncaloric beverages – whether it's water, diet soft drinks or something else – can be a clear and simple change for people who want to lose or maintain weight," Tate said.
"If this were done on a large scale, it could significantly reduce the increasing public health problem of obesity," she said.
At the same time, Tate cautions that overemphasizing a beverage switch alone may not be the most effective way to encourage people to lose weight.
"Beverages may be ideal targets, but keep in mind, the strategy will only work if the person doesn't make up for the lost calories some other way," she said.
The study was called CHOICE (Choosing Healthy Options Consciously Everyday) and appears to be the first randomized controlled trial to study whether substituting drinks alone can have a noticeable effect on weight loss.
The study appeared online and will appear in the March issue of the journal American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It was funded by Nestle Waters USA, and the authors declared no competing interests.