Water-induced thermogenesis reconsidered: the effects of osmolality and water temperature on energy expenditure after drinking

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Sep;91(9):3598-602. doi: 10.1210/jc.2006-0407. Epub 2006 Jul 5.


Context: A recent study reported that drinking 500 ml of water causes a 30% increase in metabolic rate. If verified, this previously unrecognized thermogenic property of water would have important implications for weight-loss programs. However, the concept of a thermogenic effect of water is controversial because other studies have found that water drinking does not increase energy expenditure.

Objective: The objective of the study was to test whether water drinking has a thermogenic effect in humans and, furthermore, determine whether the response is influenced by osmolality or by water temperature.

Design: This was a randomized, crossover design.

Setting: The study was conducted at a university physiology laboratory.

Participants: Participants included healthy young volunteer subjects.

Intervention: Intervention included drinking 7.5 ml/kg body weight (approximately 518 ml) of distilled water or 0.9% saline or 7% sucrose solution (positive control) on different days. In a subgroup of subjects, responses to cold water (3 C) were tested.

Main outcome measure: Resting energy expenditure, assessed by indirect calorimetry for 30 min before and 90 min after the drinks, was measured.

Results: Energy expenditure did not increase after drinking either distilled water (P = 0.34) or 0.9% saline (P = 0.33). Drinking the 7% sucrose solution significantly increased energy expenditure (P < 0.0001). Drinking water that had been cooled to 3 C caused a small increase in energy expenditure of 4.5% over 60 min (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: Drinking distilled water at room temperature did not increase energy expenditure. Cooling the water before drinking only stimulated a small thermogenic response, well below the theoretical energy cost of warming the water to body temperature. These results cast doubt on water as a thermogenic agent for the management of obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Drinking / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Random Allocation
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*
  • Water / physiology*


  • Water