Objective: To determine whether the consumption of water 30 minutes before an ad libitum meal reduces meal energy intake in young and older adults.
Research methods and procedures: Healthy, non-obese young (n = 29; age, 21 to 35 years) and older (n = 21; age, 60 to 80 years) individuals were provided with an ad libitum lunch meal on two occasions. Thirty minutes before the lunch meals, subjects were given either a water preload (WP: 375 mL, women; 500 mL, men) or no preload (NP). Energy intake at the two lunch meals was measured. Visual analog scales were used to assess changes in hunger, fullness, and thirst during the meal studies.
Results: There was no significant difference in meal energy intake between conditions in the young subjects (892 + 51 vs. 913 +/- 54 kcal for NP and WP, respectively; p = 0.65). However, meal energy intake after the WP was significantly reduced relative to the NP condition in the older subjects (682 + 53 vs. 624 +/- 56 kcal for NP and WP, respectively; p = 0.02). This effect was caused primarily by the reduction in meal energy intake after water consumption in older men. Hunger ratings were lower and fullness ratings were higher in older compared with younger adults (p < 0.01). Fullness ratings were higher in the WP condition compared with the NP condition for all subjects (p = 0.01). No age differences in thirst were detected during the test meals.
Discussion: Under acute test meal conditions, pre-meal water consumption reduces meal energy intake in older but not younger adults. Because older adults are at increased risk for overweight and obesity, intervention studies are needed to determine whether pre-meal water consumption is an effective long-term weight management strategy for the aging population.