Drinking water has heterogeneous effects on energy intake (EI), energy expenditure (EE), fat oxidation (FO) and weight change in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving adults and/or children. The aim of this qualitative review of RCTs was to identify conditions associated with negative, null and beneficial effects of drinking water on EI, EE, FO and weight, to generate hypotheses about ways to optimize drinking water interventions for weight management. RCT conditions that are associated with negative or null effects of drinking water on EI, EE and/or FO in the short term are associated with negative or null effects on weight over the longer term. RCT conditions that are associated with lower EI, increased EE and/or increased FO in the short term are associated with less weight gain or greater weight loss over time. Drinking water instead of caloric beverages decreases EI when food intake is ad libitum. Drinking water increases EE in metabolically-inflexible, obese individuals. Drinking water increases FO when blood carbohydrate and/or insulin concentrations are not elevated and when it is consumed instead of caloric beverages or in volumes that alter hydration status. Further research is needed to confirm the observed associations and to determine if/what specific conditions optimize drinking water interventions for weight management.
Keywords: drinking water; energy intake; fat oxidation; weight loss; weight management.