Water is essential for life. Our bodies depend on water to function properly and stay healthy. Some people claim that not drinking enough water can lead to high cholesterol levels. But is this really true? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all of our body’s cells. Our liver produces most of the cholesterol our bodies need to function normally. Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in particles called lipoproteins:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) – known as “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) – known as “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver for removal.
Having healthy levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol is important. High LDL cholesterol levels in particular are a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
What causes high cholesterol?
High cholesterol is generally caused by a combination of factors:
- Diet – Eating foods high in saturated and trans fats can raise cholesterol levels.
- Weight – Being overweight or obese tends to increase LDL cholesterol levels.
- Physical activity – Lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and higher cholesterol levels.
- Genetics – Some people inherit genes from their parents that cause high cholesterol.
- Age – Cholesterol levels tend to rise as we get older.
- Diseases – Some diseases and conditions, like diabetes and kidney disease, can increase cholesterol levels.
In some cases, medications or supplements can also raise cholesterol as a side effect.
How does hydration affect cholesterol?
Now let’s look specifically at how hydration may play a role in cholesterol levels. Here are a few key points on the link between water intake and cholesterol:
- Dehydration appears to temporarily increase cholesterol concentrations in the blood.
- When the body is dehydrated, blood plasma volume decreases. This makes the blood more concentrated, which could increase measured cholesterol levels.
- Studies show that cholesterol concentrations normalize when dehydration is corrected by rehydration.
- Some experts theorize that even mild dehydration may raise cholesterol over the long term, but this has not been proven.
- Drinking more water may have other heart-protective benefits, like improving blood flow and reducing blood viscosity.
So while dehydration may cause temporary spikes in cholesterol levels, there is no strong evidence that chronically low water intake increases cholesterol over the long run.
Can drinking more water lower high cholesterol?
Based on the current evidence, simply drinking more water is unlikely to lower high cholesterol on its own. However, staying well hydrated may provide the following benefits:
- Avoid temporary cholesterol increases from dehydration.
- Support heart health by optimizing blood flow and viscosity.
- Aid in weight loss when substituting for sugary beverages, which can in turn help lower cholesterol.
It’s also important to note that there are no risks associated with drinking more water. So if you have high cholesterol, staying hydrated throughout the day is recommended. But it should be combined with other lifestyle changes and possibly medication if cholesterol levels remain uncontrolled.
How much water should you drink?
Most healthy adults should aim for the following daily water intake from fluids and foods:
- Women: Around 11.5 cups (2.7 liters)
- Men: Around 15.5 cups (3.7 liters)
This can vary based on factors like age, activity level, health conditions, and climate. A good rule of thumb is to drink water when you’re thirsty and drink enough so that your urine is a light yellow color.
Some signs you may not be drinking enough water include:
- Dark yellow urine
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
Tips for staying hydrated
Here are some simple strategies to help you drink more water and avoid dehydration:
- Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day and refill it often.
- Drink a glass of water with each meal.
- Choose water over sugary drinks like juice, soda, and sports drinks.
- Eat fruits and vegetables with high water content like cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, and melons.
- Add slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber to your water for extra flavor.
- Set reminders to drink water throughout the day.
- Drink an extra glass after exercise or time spent outdoors.
Other ways to lower high cholesterol
While staying hydrated is beneficial, it takes more comprehensive lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol effectively. Here are some other key ways to improve your cholesterol levels:
- Follow a heart-healthy diet: Limit saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
- Exercise regularly: Aim for 30-60 minutes per day of moderate exercise like brisk walking.
- Lose extra weight: If overweight, losing just 5-10% of your body weight can help improve cholesterol.
- Quit smoking: Cigarette smoking damages blood vessels and raises LDL.
- Limit alcohol: Excessive drinking can increase triglycerides and blood pressure.
- Manage conditions: Get diabetes, thyroid disorders, and sleep apnea under control.
- Reduce stress: Chronic stress may indirectly impact cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.
In many cases, even with lifestyle changes, a statin or other cholesterol-lowering medication may also be recommended by your doctor to achieve optimal cholesterol levels.
The bottom line
Severe dehydration may cause temporary spikes in cholesterol concentrations. But there is no strong proof that chronic mild dehydration from low water intake increases cholesterol levels over the long term.
Simply drinking more water is unlikely to directly lower high cholesterol on its own. However, staying well hydrated supports overall health and may aid in weight loss, which can in turn help improve cholesterol.
If you have high cholesterol, it’s smart to aim for adequate fluid intake. But focusing on a healthy diet, exercise, weight control, and medication adherence is much more important for managing cholesterol. Drinking more water should be combined with these evidence-based changes for the best results.
Frequently asked questions
Does drinking water help flush out cholesterol?
No, drinking more water does not directly flush out cholesterol or dissolve it like other water-soluble compounds. The liver produces over 90% of the cholesterol in your body, not dietary intake. And cholesterol (a fat-soluble molecule) needs to be transported by lipoproteins through the bloodstream to cells. So drinking water alone cannot remove excess cholesterol from the body once it reaches the blood.
What about drinking hot lemon water?
Hot lemon water is sometimes promoted as a detoxifying health drink. However, there is no scientific evidence that drinking hot water with lemon can flush cholesterol out of the body or arteries. That said, starting your day with a cup of hot lemon water is very safe and provides vitamin C. It counts towards your daily fluid intake.
Will drinking apple cider vinegar lower cholesterol?
Some small studies suggest apple cider vinegar may offer very modest cholesterol-lowering benefits. However, the evidence is still considered insufficient to recommend vinegar as an effective way to lower high cholesterol. Appropriate diet and lifestyle changes, along with medication if prescribed, are necessary to manage high cholesterol most effectively.
Can dehydration cause atherosclerosis?
Severe dehydration causes your blood to become more concentrated and viscous. Some research indicates this may temporarily make existing arterial plaque more likely to rupture, potentially blocking blood flow. However, there is no strong evidence showing chronic mild dehydration directly causes atherosclerosis (hardened, narrowed arteries). Atherosclerosis develops from sustained inflammation and damage to artery walls over many years.
Are cholesterol levels higher at certain times of day?
Yes, cholesterol levels can fluctuate by up to 10-15% during the day and are typically highest in the morning. Levels start dropping within 30 minutes of waking up and are usually lowest at night. Because of this variance, doctors recommend checking cholesterol levels in the morning after an 8-12 hour fast.
|Time of Day||Typical Cholesterol Level|
Dehydration may temporarily increase blood cholesterol concentrations. But current research does not show a strong link between inadequate water intake and chronically high cholesterol levels.
Drinking more water may have modest benefits for cardiovascular health. However, improving your cholesterol requires a holistic approach with diet, exercise, weight control, stress management, and medications as needed. Focusing mainly on water intake is unlikely to be enough to correct dyslipidemia.
While staying well hydrated is healthy, it should not replace other evidence-based treatment strategies. Talk to your doctor to develop a comprehensive cholesterol management plan tailored to your individual health status and needs.