One more reason to keep hydrated: Research suggests there may be an easy way to enhance your weight loss. Drinking two cups of water before meals can help with weight management.

Researchers at Virginia Tech put 48 older men and women (ages 55 to 75) on a low-calorie diet — with half the group further instructed to drink 16 ounces of water 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner. After three months, both groups lost weight — but the water drinkers lost nearly 5 pounds more (15.5 pounds vs. 11 pounds) — an impressive 44% increase in weight loss! The water drinkers reported less hunger and more fullness — thus naturally taking in fewer calories. Interestingly enough, when the same experiment was performed with younger adults (21 to 35 years of age) water drinking provided no significant weight-loss advantage.

There’s some conflicting research on whether water in-and-of-itself performs the “Volumetrics” function of filling you up — or whether it needs to be contained in a high-water food, like soup, or fruit and vegetables. But there’s no doubt that drinking water in place of caloric beverages — soda, alcohol, juice, etc. — cuts calorie intake dramatically. University of North Carolina researchers looking at dietary data for 4,755 people found that those who drank at least 7 cups of water daily consumed 200 fewer calories. There are even some findings that suggest water drinking may help elevate your metabolic rate. Finally, given that water accounts for up to three-fourths of your body weight, it plays a vital role in maintaining general health.

Bonus: Bored by ordinary H2O? We’ve got some ideas for livening up your water with watermelon, mint, lime and other flavors, here.

Published January 1, 2011