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Does adding lemon to your coffee really help you lose weight?

The viral coffee and lemon challenge claims to help people lose weight and burn belly fat. We're debunking the myth with the help of two registered dietitians.
Coffee cup with espresso served with lemon on white background with shadows and sunlight
Two registered dietitians share their thoughts on TikTok's viral coffee and lemon challenge.Nadya So / Getty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY

We turn to TikTok users to provide us with hours of endless entertainment — and it has quickly become a popular place for people to post health content, from treadmill workouts to sleep hacks. One of the many health claims coming out of the platform? Adding lemon to your coffee is the best-kept secret to losing weight.

The trend initially went viral thanks to a "coffee and lemon" challenge. The idea behind the trend is quite simple: squeeze some lemon into your coffee to help burn fat and, consequently, kickstart your weight-loss journey.

Plenty of TikTok users posted videos of themselves trying the trend and some of them have been quite candid in saying that they don't exactly dig the flavor combo.

Some folks said "hell no" after giving it the old college try, including one TikTok user that said she actually gained weight after drinking lemon in her coffee for a week straight (heads up: there are some expletives in that one!). Still, many swear that a touch of lemon in their coffee has helped them shed some pounds, including this TikTok user claiming an 8-pound weight loss in two weeks (though she also outlines other diet changes she made).

So does it really work? TODAY spoke with a few registered dietitians to find out.

Where did the idea for this viral challenge come from anyway?

We can't be sure of its origin, but it's likely that whoever kicked off this viral challenge was thinking about the much-touted value of adding a lemon slice to your water. But we were curious to know if that actually has any real benefits so we asked New York City-based registered dietitian and co-author of "Sugar Shock" Samantha Cassetty, to weigh in.

"Adding lemon to your water makes it tastes better, so it can help you stay hydrated. Also, drinking water before a meal can promote satiety, so you may be inclined to eat less," she explained. "If you were eating less, it could produce the calorie deficit needed for weight loss, but even so, adding a glass of water to your pre-meal routine wouldn’t have a dramatic impact on your weight. And there’s nothing magical about adding a slice of lemon to your water. It’s not enhancing calorie burning or anything like that."

And besides, you're using such a small portion of a lemon that it doesn't come with much in the way of nutritional benefits.

"A slice of lemon has less than 5 percent of the vitamin C you need each day. Meanwhile, you could exceed your daily needs by having either a cup of strawberries or red pepper slices. And chewing food helps promote feelings of fullness so, in this regard, there’s a benefit to eating food. There’s really no additional benefit you get by adding lemon to your water outside of helping you drink more water," she said.

Does adding lemon to your coffee help with weight loss?

So adding lemon to water can make it more flavorful and add a touch of vitamin C, but is the whole coffee and lemon challenge effective or just a gimmick?

Sorry folks, Cassetty said it's just another TikTok trend with no merit.

"I can’t think of a single benefit of adding lemon to your coffee. I’d actually consider this behavior to be a red flag for disordered eating. Eating for weight loss shouldn’t be about restricting yourself or forcing yourself to eat or drink something that’s not appetizing. That’s a sign that you’re not building sustainable habits and it also suggests that you're willing to prioritize losing weight over your well-being," she said.

Furthermore, registered dietitian nutritionist Maya Feller of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition said that these sorts of social media challenges can be triggering for those with disordered eating.

"These viral diet videos are damaging and dangerous. They are created by people with no qualifications and invite hysteria. Add lemon to your coffee if you want the flavor. It’s absurd, the diet industry’s focus on burning fat and weight loss. If a person is looking to make a shift in their metabolic health — find a professional," she said.

Cassetty explained that weight loss is a complicated process that involves a series of healthy behaviors, including eating healthy, sleeping, staying active and managing stress. Genetics, hormones and other factors are also involved.

"The one thing we know for sure is that there is no quick fix," she said in reference to the viral challenge.