Recently I have seen/ heard quite a lot of websites/ people saying that lemons can help with weight loss, particularly if you squeeze a lemon into some water and have it as a drink with breakfast. My initial gut feeling is that this doesn’t make sense, and sounds to be another myth, but, I thought I’d give it a good looking into – can lemons really help with weight loss?
On the right you can see the general nutritional information found in the juice of 1 squeezed lemon (averaging at 47g).
Unsurprisingly, the basic nutritional content is very underwhelming, but not surprising. Most fruit and veg are about 90% water, and when you remove the rind and pith you will mainly be left with water.
It does contain 21.6mg of vitamin C, which is about 36% of the USA recommended amount, and about 50% of the UK recommended amount. (For information on how the RDAs apply to you, and their accuracy click here).
Other vitamins/ mineral are largely irrelevant, and appear in small, but unimpressive and insignificant proportions.
Nothing stands out, so lets see how people claim it works…
Common claims for how lemons promote weight loss:
- Lemon juice prevents sugar cravings, which causes you to eat less sugar.
- Lemon juice is thermogenic, and so causes the body to burn more calories. (This is similar to how green tea can help with weight loss).
- The fibre found in lemon juice makes you feel full for longer, and so you don’t want to eat as much food.
- And my personal favourite – “Lemon juice contains a chemical which causes you to lose weight”.
So I decided to research these claims one by one.
There is nothing other than anecdotal evidence online (which we all know cannot be trusted) to suggest this is true. I cannot find any scientific studies to explain how this would work, and I can’t find any nutrients in lemons which can stop sugar cravings.
The best I can find to support this is a reference to a small study which showed that lemon juice could curb sugar cravings. However, this study didn’t use a placebo, was not double blind and was not peer reviewed, making it worthless.
2 – “Lemon juice is thermogenic.”
As with green tea and other thermogenic foods, the compound which causes the raised metabolism is a polyphenol. A general nutrition table doesn’t show phenolic compounds, but some research here has identified the phenolic compounds in lemon juice, and indeed there are many phenolic compounds, the most abundant is called hesperidin.
Could this be how lemon juice promotes weight loss? No. There is no evidence that hesperidin can promote weight loss, and the only benefit it seems to be able to exert on the body is as an antioxidant.
At any rate, even if the phenolic compounds in lemon could act thermogenically, they are found in such small quantities that they would have an insignificant impact on the body.
3 – “The fibre in lemon juice makes you feel full for longer”
There is so little fibre in lemon juice that I was tempted to just ignore this one all together, but I thought I’d better give it a bit of researching just to make sure.
After reading some more into this, I can confirm that there is nothing but suspicious pseudo-science/ anecdotal evidence supporting this claim (and lots of it!).
4 – “Lemon juice contains a chemical which causes you to lose weight”.
This one made me laugh because it is just so vague you can’t even begin to research it. “A chemical” – what chemical?? “Causes you to lose weight” – how??
Can lemons really help with weight loss?
No. There is so little of any nutrient in the juice of one squeezed lemon that it is almost impossible for any of them to have any effect on weight loss, and there is no evidence to suggest that any of the compounds found in lemon juice can help with weight loss at any rate.
BUT… This isn’t to say drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice isn’t healthy. As you have already seen, it contains quite a lot of vitamin C and other antioxidants such hesperidin. So go on, drink away and enjoy the added health benefits, but don’t expect to lose any weight!