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5 weight-loss drinks that are more myth than fact

People hoping to lose weight often switch from sodas to cold-pressed juices or detoxifying teas, but are these products healthy or all hype?
by Meghan Holohan / / Source: TODAY
five drinks that people think help with weight loss
There's no harm in putting lemon in your water, but there's no miraculous benefit either.Shutterstock

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When it comes to losing weight, there are products that will promise you everything — especially drinks. There are flat-tummy teas, fat-burning drinks and weight-loss smoothies. While your friend Jessica might swear by them, do any of these products actually work?

The short answer: Nope.

“They are not really going to promote long-term weight loss,” Krista Schreiber, a dietitian at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told TODAY. “There hasn’t been any evidence-based research for most things that are supposed to detox.”

Schreiber and other experts outlined which drinks you may want to be wary of:

1. Apple cider vinegar

People often drink a shot of apple cider vinegar as part of dietary changes meant to encourage weight loss. Many believe the tart liquid changes gut health and leads to weight loss. While vinegar certainly can be a healthy addition to a diet, the experts recommend holding off on taking shots of it for weight loss.

“There is evidence to suggest that vinegars can inhibit enzymes that break down food and change up how we digest carbohydrates,” Cassie Vanderwall, a nutritionist at University of Wisconsin Health, told TODAY. “(But) I don’t think the evidence is strong enough to recommend it (for weight loss.)"

Vinegar causes the body to slowly digest carbohydrates, meaning blood sugar doesn’t spike as intensely. But that doesn't translate to weight loss. There’s also little data showing that vinegar impacts gut health.

But when it comes to choosing a salad dressing, a vinaigrette is a healthier choice than a cream-based dressing.

2. Juices

For many, a juice seems like a smarter choice and some people even swap out juices for meals. While juices provide some vitamins, enjoying them doesn't always mean a smaller number on the scale.

“They are putting produce in their body, which we don’t get enough of,” Leslie Bonci, a dietician in Pittsburgh, told TODAY. “But, juices alone are not necessarily helping with weight loss.”

Though, if people are consistently substituting juices for meals, they may notice a loss, due to the calorie deficit. While that may be a positive for people, it's important to note that fruit juices contain a lot of fructose. Some believe a natural sugar like fructose is healthier than added sugar, but it still increases blood sugar levels.

“It’s what we call a health halo,” Vanderwall said. "It is a different type of sugar but it still has the same effect.”

Plus, drinking a juice won’t make people feel as full as they would if they were eating fruits and vegetables.

3. Activated charcoal

In hospitals, doctors use activated charcoal after someone ingests something poisonous. It works like a sponge, soaking up everything in the stomach. Some people think that drinking it at home will help to detoxify their bodies and lead to weight loss.

“That is another myth. I don’t know of any evidence-based research that has shown its effectiveness for weight loss,” Schreiber.

Activated charcoal is indiscriminate: It absorbs everything in the stomach — both good and bad. This means people are losing micronutrients when they drink it.

“We don’t know if it is harmless,” Bonci said. “There is nothing about it that would promote weight loss short of being nauseous, which is just fluid loss.”

4. Detoxifying teas

Detoxifying teas claim to rid the body of toxins, helping people lose weight and flatten their tummies.

Is this too good to be true? Absolutely.

“There is no magic drink that is going to result in weight loss,” said Schreiber.

Vanderwall often hears people say they need to detoxify, but wonders why they worry about toxins.

“Our pancreases, kidney and liver, that is their job to detoxify our bodies,” she said. “What toxins are people trying to remove? If it is dietary toxin, just stop eating it.”

Some detoxifying products have high amounts of senna, a byproduct of the senna plant, which is used to treat constipation. When people consume too much of it they experience abdominal cramping, nausea and diarrhea.

“If you are dehydrated and having diarrhea, you might feel lighter,” Bonci said. “The impact on the gut is not a pleasant thing and it is not leading to a body fat loss.”

5. Caffeine

While loads of studies show that coffee improves heart health, for example, caffeine in coffee or added to other drinks does not help with weight loss. It can boost metabolism initially, but that quickly wears off and people have to drink more and more to see even a slight difference.

“Caffeine is commonly included in weight-loss products, but its long-term impact is minimal to none,” Vanderwall said.

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