Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Is Cold Water Bad For You?



Short answer

No, cold water is not bad for you. Myths suggest it solidifies fats, slows digestion, and causes sore throats, but there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. While consuming cold water can cause a slight uptick in metabolism, the effect on calorie burning and weight loss is minimal. For most, cold water poses no threat to digestive health and can aid in hydration, particularly as it may increase one's desire to drink more. Personal preference should guide temperature choice for optimal comfort and hydration.



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Long answer

Myths vs. Facts: The Body's Reaction to Cold Water

When it comes to the body's response to cold water intake, there's an abundance of myths circulating that can blur the line between conjecture and evidence-based reality. To demystify these claims and get to the core of what cold water does to our system, let's dissect the most common myths and contrast them with the facts.

Myth 1: Cold Water Solidifies Fats In Your Meal

One prevalent myth is that drinking cold water immediately after eating causes fats from the food to solidify in your digestive system, leading to fat accumulation and related health issues. Let's unpack this.

Fact: The human digestive system is remarkably efficient at maintaining a constant core temperature. When cold water is ingested, it is rapidly brought to body temperature in the stomach, preventing any significant impact on the digestion of fats. Research indicates that drinking water, regardless of its temperature, alongside a meal aids in the digestive process.

Myth 2: Cold Water Slows Digestion

Another popular belief is that cold water can slow down the digestion process, somehow hindering the breakdown and absorption of nutrients.

Fact: Scientific findings suggest that there is minimal impact on the digestion speed due to the temperature of the water you consume. While extremely cold beverages can cause a mild contraction of blood vessels, the effect is transient and doesn't significantly affect the digestive process.

Myth 3: Drinking Cold Water Burns More Calories

The idea that drinking cold water increases metabolism and calorie expenditure stems from the concept of thermogenesis – the body's process of producing heat.

Fact: While there is some truth to the body burning additional calories to warm up the cold water, the effect is relatively slight. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking ice water did indeed increase energy expenditure, but the number of extra calories burned is not substantial enough to impact weight loss significantly.

Myth 4: Cold Water Can Cause a Sore Throat

There is a common warning that consuming cold water can lead to a sore throat or exacerbate a cold, implying a direct link between the temperature of the water consumed and respiratory health.

Fact: Sore throats are typically caused by viral or bacterial infections, not the temperature of your beverages. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that cold water intake is a direct cause of sore throats. However, if you already have a sore throat or a cold, drinking cold water can sometimes exacerbate the discomfort momentarily due to the cooling effect on the throat tissues.

Understanding the real effects of cold water consumption on our bodies is crucial in dismantling the myths that can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions. Being well-informed is key to making the best choices for your health and well-being.

Cold Water Consumption and Digestive Health

When you reach for a glass of cold water, you might not be thinking about its impact on your digestive system. However, temperatures can play a role in how your body processes and digests food. Here's a closer look at how cold water interacts with digestive health.

Effect on Enzymatic Activity

One of the crucial aspects of digestion involves the secretion of digestive enzymes. These enzymes break down food particles, making them absorbable by the body. Studies have shown that extreme temperatures can affect enzymatic efficiency. For instance, drinking very cold water during meals may slow down enzyme activity, potentially reducing the digestive system’s ability to process food efficiently. However, more research is needed to substantiate these claims and understand the implications for overall health.

Gastric Motility

Gastric motility refers to the stomach's ability to contract and churn food, further breaking it down after enzymatic action. While it’s often believed that cold water might inhibit these contractions, thus slowing digestion, scientific evidence on this is somewhat mixed. Some healthcare practitioners assert that cold water can cause contraction of blood vessels, which may impact gastric motility. However, most research suggests that the human body is well-adapted to regulating its internal temperature and quickly warms cold water to body temperature, thus minimizing any potential negative impact on digestion.

Effects on Solubility and Absorption

Fats have different solubilities at various temperatures. Hot liquids can help dissolve fats better than cold liquids, which could imply that drinking cold water after a fatty meal might lead to slower digestion. However, the reduction of fat solubility in cold water is minimal and unlikely to have a significant effect on the digestion of fats in a typical dietary context.

Hydration and Digestive Function

Good hydration is essential for optimal digestive function. Adequate fluid intake helps to soften stools and is necessary for the prevention of constipation. Cold water, like water at any temperature, contributes to overall hydration. Many people find cold water more refreshing and are therefore more likely to drink larger amounts, which can indirectly benefit digestion by maintaining proper hydration levels.

Cold Water and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

For individuals with sensitive digestive systems or conditions like IBS, cold water might exacerbate symptoms. Some people with these conditions report that cold drinks can trigger cramps or discomfort. As sensitivities vary from person to person, it’s important for those with gastrointestinal challenges to consume water at a temperature that feels most comfortable for them.

It's Not Just About Temperature

When considering the effect of water consumption on digestion, it's not just the temperature of the water that matters but also the overall lifestyle and dietary habits. For most people, water at different temperatures, including cold water, is generally not harmful and remains an essential part of a healthy diet. It’s important to consider individual experiences and consult with healthcare professionals if any digestive concerns arise.

While the effects of cold water on digestive health are a subject of debate, it's crucial to prioritize regular, sufficient water intake for overall wellbeing. In conclusion, keep in mind that maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and listening to your body are the best practices for digestive health.

Influence of Cold Water on Metabolism and Weight Loss

There's a common claim that drinking cold water can boost metabolism and aid weight loss. Scientifically speaking, the body burns calories when it heats cold water to body temperature, a process known as thermogenesis. Let's delve into what research says about this phenomenon.

When you ingest cold water, your body expends energy to warm the liquid to match your body's internal temperature. This metabolic response can indeed increase energy expenditure slightly. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking 500 milliliters of water increased metabolic rate by approximately 30% within 10 minutes of consumption and reached a maximum after about 30-40 minutes. The scientists attributed this rise in metabolism to the body's effort to warm the water.

  • Impact on Energy Expenditure: Moderate increases in metabolism are noted following cold water consumption, potentially influencing overall energy use.
  • Caloric Burn: The actual number of calories burnt during this process is relatively small, so while beneficial, it will not dramatically alter weight.
  • Hydration and Satiety: Cold water can also contribute to feelings of fullness, reducing the likelihood of overeating, which indirectly supports weight loss strategies.

It is important to note that metabolism is influenced by a myriad of factors, including age, muscle mass, and overall health. While cold water can mildly accelerate metabolism, its role in weight management should be viewed as part of a larger landscape of dietary and lifestyle choices.

Experts generally agree that while cold water can have a small effect on energy consumption and can be a helpful component of a weight loss strategy, it is not a standalone solution. Pairing regular cold water intake with a balanced diet and consistent exercise will yield more substantial results.

Another aspect worth considering is the concept of 'water-induced thermogenesis'. While cold water has a more pronounced effect, drinking water at any temperature can increase metabolism because of the body's work to process the liquid. Thus, maintaining proper hydration is a key factor in supporting metabolic health.

In summary, drinking cold water may slightly enhance metabolism and can contribute to weight loss efforts but should not be relied upon as a sole method for shedding pounds. Integrating cold water consumption within a balanced lifestyle is the most effective approach.

Comparing Cold and Room Temperature Water for Hydration Efficiency

When it comes to staying hydrated, the temperature of water you drink may be worth considering. While personal preference and immediate environmental factors often determine whether we reach for a glass of cold or room temperature water, there's scientific evidence that touches on the efficiency of hydration in relation to the temperature of the water consumed.

Temperature Impact on Absorption Rate

One of the most critical factors in hydration is the rate at which water is absorbed in the body. Although research is ongoing, some studies suggest that cold water—typically defined as water between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (10–15 degrees Celsius)—is absorbed more quickly by the body compared to warmer water. The reasoning behind this lies in the stomach's response to fluid temperatures; cold water is likely to leave the stomach faster, initiating an earlier onset of hydration.

Gastric Emptying Time

It is also useful to examine the concept of 'gastric emptying time,' which is the rate at which fluid leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. A study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that cold water has a faster gastric emptying time than warm water, which may mean that cold water could lead to a faster initial spike in hydration post-consumption.

Performance in Athletic Settings

In athletic settings, the hydration efficiency of cold versus room temperature water can have practical implications. Athletes often prefer cold water due to its refreshing qualities and potential to improve performance, especially in heat. Consuming cold water can help lower core body temperature, making it a strategic choice during intense physical activities or in hot climates. Nonetheless, the practical benefit to performance remains individualized and may not be significant for all people or in all contexts.

Influence on Overall Fluid Intake

Temperature preferences can directly affect how much water someone is willing to drink. If an individual prefers cold water, they may be inclined to drink more of it, thus inadvertently increasing their hydration status. Conversely, those who favor room temperature water might consume it more readily if cold water is not available, helping maintain their hydration levels consistently throughout the day.

Room Temperature Water for Digestive Comfort

While cold water might have the edge in occasional hydration efficiency, room temperature water is often recommended for those with sensitive digestive systems. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some individuals may experience cramping or discomfort from drinking cold water, particularly when consumed with meals. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support this as a widespread concern.

To conclude this section, while cold water may offer a faster initial hydrating effect and provide relief in warmer temperatures, both cold and room temperature water are effective for maintaining overall hydration status. The choice between them should consider not only individual comfort and digestive response but also external factors such as climate and physical exertion levels. As with many aspects of nutrition and hydration, individual preferences and needs should guide your choices.

Frequently asked questions

Individuals with sensitive digestive systems, such as those with IBS, may find that cold water exacerbates symptoms like cramps or discomfort. It is important for these individuals to listen to their bodies and consume water at a temperature that agrees with them, which may be room temperature or warmer.

While cold water consumption slightly increases metabolism due to thermogenesis, another potential benefit for weight loss is that cold water may increase feelings of fullness, which could reduce overall caloric intake by curbing the appetite and lessening the likelihood of overeating.

Cold water can help lower core body temperature which might offer a cooling benefit to athletes, particularly in hot environments or during intense workouts. However, this is highly individualized, and while many athletes prefer it for its refreshing feel, the extent to which it enhances performance varies from person to person.

Cold water is often favored during physical activity, especially in hot climates, since it can provide a cooling effect and may be more appealing, leading to increased fluid intake. At rest, the temperature of water is less critical, and personal preference should guide your choice for optimal hydration.

Ask a question about Cold Water and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • mild throat discomfort if already sore
  • transient digestive discomfort in sensitive individuals
  • mild contraction of blood vessels


  • aids digestion
  • marginally increases metabolic rate
  • supports hydration
  • may improve athletic performance in the heat
  • supports weight loss strategies
  • aids in promoting satiety

Healthier alternatives

  • room temperature water for sensitive digestive systems

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Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-15-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-15-2024

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