Skip to main content

5 Scientific Reasons to Drink Lemon Water

Dr. Alison Chen
6 September 2016

5 Scientific Reasons to Drink Lemon Water - Health with hydration
by Alison Chen, ND

5 Scientific Reasons to Drink Lemon Water - Health with hydration


ALTHOUGH WATER IS NOT A MAGICAL CURE for cancer, world hunger or childhood diseases, it does hold a top position in a healthy lifestyle and it's ESSENTIAL for life!

Water is quantitatively the most important nutrient for life[1]

Along with a healthy balanced diet, exercise routine, sunshine, and good quality sleep is hydration. Water is critical to all living creatures and an absence will be lethal to humans within days, as we are made up of 55-75% H2O [1]

Many people have a hard time drinking enough pure H2O (including myself), but adding a little citrus to your water can make a big difference to the taste and health benefits.

Lemon water is an ideal way to start your morning with energy, hydration, and endurance. Simply squeeze the juice of an 1/8- 1/4 wedge of lemon into a glass of room temperature or slightly cool water

Citrus fruits contain bioactive compounds such as phenolics, flavonoids, vitamins, terpenoids, reducing sugars and essential oils, which have a large range of protective health benefits including antioxidative, anti‐inflammatory, antitumor, and antimicrobial activities[2]

Lemon is part of the citrus family. Its Latin name is Citrus limon. Lemon juice contain citrus flavonoids including hesperedin, hesperetin, naringin, naringenin, as well as bioactive components such as citric acid, polyphenol, and ascorbic acid (reduced form of Vitamin C)[3,5]

Let's take a closer look...

Here are 11 benefits of staying hydrated throughout the day with lemon water.

Please note: the amount of lemon juice in your water may not be enough to have the following therapeutic effects. Drinking lemon water should be an added practice on top of your primary treatment plan.

1. Gently Detoxifies 5 Scientific Reasons to Drink Lemon Water - Health with hydration

Many people hear the word "detox" they get defensive and sometimes aggressive. And I get it. There are lots of fad supplements, diets and juice plans that market the word "detox" as a cure-all treatment for a lifetime of eating poorly and partying.

So is "detox" just a fad? Well, maybe, but more than that it's actually a physiological medical process of the body. Detox stands for detoxification.

Look up "detoxification" in PubMed and you'll find 31,127 articles.

Detoxification is your body’s natural way of protecting itself from potentially harmful toxins. It works to store, then safely excrete waste at a regulated interval. The liver is one of the primary detoxification organs and follows 2 steps to safely remove chemicals from the body [6]

  1. Phase I: Reduction and Hydrolysis into a lipophilic-fat soluble molecule (active and storage form)

  2. Phase II: Conjugation into a hydrophilic-water soluble molecule (excretion via bowels and kidneys)

Your body is built to maintain homeostasis and balance. Therefore, taking a pill or manually forcing the body to speed up this process can be dangerous.

"Forcing the body's natural detoxification pathways can be dangerous."

Drinking lemon water is one of many gentle detoxification technique that supports the organs of detoxification to work optimally. It doesn't speed up the natural process.

The acidity of lemon in the mouth and gut (not blood), stimulates gastric acid secretions from the pancreas and bile flow from the gall bladder and liver. This supports the natural removal of toxins stored in the liver and fat cells to help excrete them safely [7]

Drinking water by itself will support other organs of detoxification, such as the kidneys, lungs and skin.

The kidneys are the main organ for water balance in the body. When we drink more water our urine get progressively lighter in color. This is because we are eliminated excess fluids as well as nutrients, electrolytes, urobilirubin and chemicals out of the blood after Phase II liver detoxification to maintain fluid balance [8]

Chronic low fluid intake can lead to several urinary system conditions including [8]

  1. Urolithiasis (kidney stones)
  2. Urinary tract infection
  3. Chronic kidney disease
  4. Bladder cancer
  5. as well as non-urinary system conditions such as disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning

2. Cardiovascular Protection - Hypercholesterolemia and Hypertension

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death around the world [9]. Arteriosclerosis is a common and potentially life-threatening disease predominantly found in the Western population.

Arteriosclerosis is the hardening of arteries due to plaque formation. These plaques start out as minor injuries to the inner lining of the arteries, which allow lipids (apo-B lipids mainly found in LDL cholesterol) to enter those cells. These lipids get oxidized and are consumed by macrophages, creating a "fatty streak", which can be found as early as teenage years [10]

The lipid containing macrophages then die, creates a plaque and begins to undergo necrosis and calcification [10]. If the plaque progresses it can block blood flow and be potentially life-threatening in major arteries.

There are 4 modifiable causes for arteriosclerosis:

  1. Hypertension
  2. Diabetes
  3. Smoking
  4. Hypercholesterolemia

NOTE: Despite common belief, eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats do not increase the cholesterol levels on your lab report. A meta-analysis showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease [11]. However, there are other reasons to limit saturated fat intake that you can read about here [12].

Proper hydration is associated a reduction in hypertension, fatal coronary heart disease, venous thrombo-embolism, and cerebral infarct[1]

Meanwhile, consuming the juice of citrus fruits shows a decrease of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides levels, liver cholesterol and circulating LDL:HDL [12]. Recent studies suggest an important role of citrus flavonoids in the treatment of dyslipidemia and atherosclerosis.

Getting rid of cholesterol happens primarily by liver metabolism and via feces. The acidity of lemon helps to simulate digestive enzyme and bile secretions to promote cholesterol breakdown. Cholesterol is converted into bile acids by the liver and becomes water soluble so it can be removed from the body.

Animal studies show naringin supplementation improved hypertension in high-carbohydrate/high-fat-diet–fed obese rats and stroke-prone hypertensive rats [13]

Lemon juice, its crude flavonoid and the water extract of lemon peel can lower blood pressure in healthy women, while citric acid levels were correlated with benefits to the systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, and red blood cell count. As well, the intake of citric acid increases the absorption of magnesium and calcium from foods, which also supports optimal blood pressure.

Ironically, studies show the intake of lemon is highly correlated with the activity level of individuals. One guess is that people who are health consciousness eat lemons and move more often, among other healthy habits [5]

3. Blood Sugar Regulator

Studies show that citrus flavonoids regulate blood sugar levels with a similar mechanism to Metformin, the main pharmaceutical drug to control diabetes and insulin resistance.

As surprising as this is, hesperidin, hesperetin, naringin and naringenin have been shown to decrease hepatic gluconeogenesis [8]Hepatic gluconeogenesisis the production of glucose by the liver, which is released into the blood stream for energy use. In a person with impaired insulin function, gluconeogenesis results in high levels of blood sugar and initiates tissue damage associated with T2DM (type 2 diabetes) .

Therefore :

"inhibition of the gluconeogenic pathway by citrus flavanones, which was similar to that of the drug metformin, may represent an attractive novel treatment strategy for type 2 diabetes" [14]

Recent investigations of naringin suggests hypoglycemic activity mediated via uptake of glucose in the skeletal muscle [1]

And an animal study found naringin supplementation (0.2 g/kg of diet) improved glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in a model of high-fat-diet–fed mice, as high fat diets have been shown to increased inflammatory cytokines and caused insulin resistance and hyperglycemia [16]

And an animal study found naringin supplementation (0.2 g/kg of diet) improved glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in a model of high-fat-diet–fed mice, as high fat diets have been shown to increased inflammatory cytokines and caused insulin resistance and hyperglycemia [6]]. More research is required on humans to see the potential for diabetic patients.

NOTE: Never discontinue or alter your medication without permission and supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

4. Energy Boost 5 Scientific Reasons to Drink Lemon Water - Health with hydration

Three common causes of fatigue are:

  • Dehydration and hypo-tension
  • Stress and anxiety leading to poor sleep
  • Iron deficiency anemia

Lemon water targets all 3 with hydration, nourishing the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) and aiding in iron absorption.


When you get your blood pressure taken, do you often see 80/60 mmHg?

If so, you probably have hypo-tension (aka. low blood pressure) and the most common reason is dehydration, but it could also indicate a serious medical condition.

Dehydration can also appear as [1]

  1. dizziness, fainting, black outs
  2. poor concentration and delirium
  3. extreme thirst
  4. constipation
  5. cold, clammy skin
  6. nausea
  7. headaches
  8. fatigue

Have you ever felt dizzy from standing up suddenly?

If so, this is called postural hypo-tension (or orthostatic hypo-tension) and can be treated by drinking 300–500 ml of water [1]

So, keep count of how many glasses of water (or lemon water) you drink per day and if it is less than 8, try increasing your hydration one glass at a time.


Hypo-tension, hypo-volemia (low blood volume) and sodium depletion simulates the RAAS (renin-angiotenin-aldosterone system) to stabilize blood pressure and volume.

However, the RAAS also has an affect on the hypothalamus, which influences the neuroendocrine and limbic system leading to heightened stress response and anxiety.

Exaggerated levels of stress and anxiety can lead to poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. Chronic and poorly managed stress is often the root of physical, mental and emotional illness.


For those with iron deficiency, it is ideal to consume vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) with an iron-rich meal or supplement. The reasons for its action are two-fold:

  1. Prevents conversion of iron into an insoluble and unabsorbable iron compound.
  2. Reduction of ferric to ferrous iron, which appears to be required for iron uptake into mucosal cells.

A study of young Indian women with iron deficiency anemia showed the addition of ascorbic acid to iron supplementation (4:1 molar ratio) increased iron absorption by ∼3.5-fold.

5. Anti-Oxidant and Cancer Prevention

Two main areas of research of Citrus flavonoids have been inflammation and cancer, as the mechanisms of action are not completely known. The anti-oxidant properties from lemons and other citrus fruits act to protect the body from cancer growth and carcinogen exposure [6]

There are 3 main agents that attempt to stop cancer [6]

  1. Suppressing agents prevent pro-carcinogens from becoming new cancers.

  2. Blocking agents prevent carcinogenic compounds from reaching critical initiation sites.

  3. Transformation agents act to encourage metabolism of carcinogenic components into less toxic materials or prevent their biological actions.

Citrus flavonoids can act as all three types of agent, with naringin, naringenin and ascorbic acid shown to be strong antioxidants [1]

Naringin and naringenin possess numerous health properties such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic (stopping self-destruction of a cell) activities. The gut microflora breaks down naringin to its aglycon form naringenin in the intestine, where it is then absorbed from the gut and has a stronger anti-oxidant effect than naringin itself[1]

In vitro and in vivo studies have established the usefulness of naringin in various pre-clinical models of [6]:

  1. atherosclerosis
  2. cardiovascular disorders
  3. diabetes mellitus
  4. neurodegenerative disorders
  5. osteoporosis
  6. rheumatological disorders

As well, naringin possesses chemopreventive and anticancer attributes in various studies of oral, breast, colon, genito-urinary, liver, lung, ovarian, and skin cancer [6]. However, further clinical research is necessary to understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of naringin in humans [6].

Ascorbic acid is involved in the first line of antioxidant defense, protecting lipid membranes and proteins from oxidative damage. Humans require a constant supply of ascorbic acid from fruits and vegetables as we are unable to fully synthesize it ourselves [9]

Various research shows a toxic effect of ascorbic acid on a variety of cancer cell lines. The main anti-tumour effect of ascorbic acid is due to its production of cytotoxic hydrogen peroxide.

Ascorbic acid given in pharmacological concentrations shows that most cancer cells, but not normal cells, are affected by 20 mmol/L ascorbic acid. However, this concentration is greater than what could be obtained orally, but is easily met with intravenous injection.

In another study, 11 human cancer cell lines (carcinomas and glioblastomas) were exposed to ascorbic acid in which 55% of the cell lines were more susceptible (EC50 ≤ 20 mmol/L) and 45% were more resistant (EC50 >20 mmol/L) to incubation. This means that half of the cancer cell lines did not thrive in 20 mmol/L of ascorbic acid, while another half were more resistant and required a higher dose to effectively reduce the population by 50% (EC50). More research is warranted, however there is some anti-cancer potential with Citrus flavonoids.