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Is Lemon Water Good for Type II Diabetics?

author image Kathryn Gilhuly
Kathryn Gilhuly is a wellness coach based in San Diego. She helps doctors, nurses and other professionals implement lifestyle changes that focus on a healthy diet and exercise. Gilhuly holds a Master of Science in health, nutrition and exercise from North Dakota State University.

Drinking lemon water seems to be all the rage these days. But there is currently no evidence suggesting that it offers any benefits related to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) or other health conditions. Even so, lemon water is a good beverage option if you have diabetes. It's easy to make, refreshing, low in calories and carbohydrates and can help keep you hydrated, like plain water. So there's no reason not to reach for a glass the next time you're thirsty.

Nutrient Content of Lemon Water

Lemons and other citrus fruits are on the American Diabetes Association's list of diabetes "super foods" because they are rich in soluble fiber and vitamin C, which may help reduce blood sugar, among other benefits. However, lemon water contains very little of either nutrient. For example, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice contain only about 12 mg of vitamin C and 0.1 g of dietary fiber. To put this in perspective, the recommended intake for vitamin C is 75 to 90 mg per day for adults, and the recommended intake for fiber is 21 to 28 g per day, depending on age and sex. Therefore, drinking lemon water is unlikely to provide enough fiber or vitamin C to have specific beneficial effects for people with T2DM.

Lemon Water and Diabetes

A review article published in the July 2014 issue of "Advances in Nutrition" suggests that naringinen, a chemical compound found in lemons and other citrus fruits, may have antidiabetic properties. To date, these effects have been studied only in animals. For example, naringenin supplementation in diabetic rats decreased fasting blood sugar and A1C, a measure of long-term blood sugar control. It also increased insulin levels. Research is needed to determine if naringenin has similar effects in humans. Even if it does, the amount of naringenin in lemon water is likely to have no effect because there is only about 0.4 mg in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice -- a dosage thousands of times less than the dosage used in animal research.

Lemon Water and Hydration

Even though drinking lemon water may not have a direct effect on T2DM, it is a much healthier drink than sugar-sweetened beverages, such as regular soda and sweet tea. It's also lower in calories and carbohydrates than fruit juices. Like plain water, lemon water is also a good way to hydrate, which appears to be associated with a lower risk of high blood sugar, according to a study published in the December 2011 issue of "Diabetes Care." Finally, some people find that they're more likely to drink lemon water than plain water, because it's more flavorful.

Cautionary Notes

If you're finding it a challenge to control your blood sugars, talk with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for guidance about healthy food and beverage choices as well as any other concerns. Also keep in mind that, because lemon juice is acidic, it might erode the enamel on your teeth over time, making them susceptible to tooth decay. Drinking lemon water with a straw or rinsing your mouth with water after drinking will help avoid this issue.

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