- A recent TikTok trend is encouraging people to add lemon to their coffee to help them lose weight.
- Coffee and lemon each have benefits on their own, but there is no real science to back up the claim that coffee and lemon is some magical elixir.
- While the actual drink shouldn’t pose any danger to most healthy individuals, weight loss hacks have the potential to be deferential to some.
Could it be possible that squeezing a fruit you probably already have in your kitchen into a beverage you probably already drink every morning is the secret to easy-peasy weight loss? The internet wants you to believe, “Yes, it’s JUST that simple!” But just like so many other social media trends that have caught the public’s attention (and clicks) over the last few years, drinking lemon coffee to “Burn Belly Fat!” or “Drop Weight Fast!” has a lot more hype than science behind it. Still, a year after the puckery coffee combo swept across the internet, many people are still wondering whether it’s worth brewing their own version of lemonade-coffee.
TikToks with the hashtag #LemonCoffee have collectively gathered more than 15 million views, and you could go down a rabbit hole watching an endless stream of YouTube videos that pair questionable “before and after” photos with shots of someone squeezing a lemon into their morning coffee, then puckering their lips and making squirmy faces into the camera as they drink it down.
For those of us who prefer a sweeter morning pick-me-up (peppermint mocha or pistachio milk mocha with a pack of Equal, anyone?), lemon and coffee does sound bitter rather and frankly kind of disgusting. But some might be willing to sacrifice taste if it really works for weight loss… so, does it?
Editor’s note: We want to acknowledge that weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.
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Coffee for weight loss
“My first thought when I heard about this trend is that it doesn’t sound very tasty!” says Alexandra Sowa, MD, a metabolic health physician, clinical professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine and founder of SoWell Health. And while lemon-flavored coffee isn’t quite as unusual as we may think (more on that later), the key question is, does it work? The answer: “There is no evidence that there is any particular benefit in drinking these two ingredients together,” Dr. Sowa says.
Now, we should point out that the trend is not without some logic: Black coffee, which is almost calorie-free, has long been a staple of diet plans. That’s of course thanks to the caffeine, a stimulant that can rev up your body’s engine for the day. Dr. Sowa explains how: “Caffeine works by blocking a neurotransmitter called adenosine, which can lead to an increase in stimulating neurotransmitters like dopamine, which helps you feel more awake and energized — that’s why we all reach for our morning coffee,” she says. While there is some evidence that this process may increase your basal metabolism rate (the amount of energy your cells burn simply by keeping your basic body functions chugging along), Dr. Sowa points out that to get this benefit, you would need to drink caffeine in large quantities — one study estimated the amount at four cups a day — and that would affect your health in other ways, including decreased sleep, increased anxiety and dehydration. Plus, any boost would be short-lived as your body began to tolerate the caffeine, Dr. Sowa says. “No doctor I know would ever recommend this as a way to lose weight,” she adds.
Lemon for weight loss
On to the second ingredient in this magical brew, the tangy yellow citrus fruit, lemon. You may have heard that drinking lemon water can help you lose weight, but the emphasis here should be on the second word in that phrase, not the first. “There’s nothing magic about lemon — it’s about staying hydrated by drinking water, and the lemon just adds flavor,” says Dr. Sowa. “There are some complex biochemical processes behind it, but the most basic element is that drinking water keeps you full. We get these hunger signals to our brain that are often really thirst signals, but your body knows that if it tells you to eat something, in the process of eating, you’ll generally consume water. By just staying hydrated, you can generally quell some of those signals.”
There is one definite way that drinking lemon water can help with weight loss: “If someone does lose weight drinking lemon water, it may simply be because the person is swapping out sugar-sweetened beverages for the lemon water,” points out Florida-based dietitian Maryann Walsh, RD.
Lemon coffee for weight loss
If you do replace a very caloric morning drink — say, a Java Chip Frappuccino or eggnog latte — with unsweetened black coffee with lemon, then yes, there might be some weight-loss benefit. But rather than take the joy out of your morning ritual by forcing yourself to drink something you don’t like, take this advice from Dr. Sowa: Simply drink a tall glass of water as soon as you wake up, to make sure you’re hydrated and then enjoy your usual, lemon-free cup of coffee. “Please remember that any health or weight loss hack that sounds too fast, too easy, or too good to be true generally is,” she says.
Does lemon coffee have any health benefits?
Once again, there may be some slight health benefits, but those generally come from drinking coffee — there’s nothing special about adding lemon to it. Below, we’re exploring other claims made about lemon coffee.
Caffeine is actually an ingredient in many headache remedies. Research shows that it can be an effective way to block migraine pain— however, in some people caffeine is actually a trigger for migraines, so you have to know your body’s reaction. Also, coffee is known to stop headaches in the morning, mainly for people who get headaches when they stop drinking coffee. Lemon has nothing to do with any of this.
Is drinking lemon coffee dangerous?
As far as TikTok trends or “challenges” go, at least this one seems fairly harmless. However, it’s important to note that drinking caffeine, especially a large quantity, can result in dizziness, heart palpitations, anxiety, stomach problems and elevated heart rate, amongst other side effects. Too much citrus can also lead to stomach problems and heartburn.
Marisa Cohen is an editor in the Hearst Lifestyle Group’s Health Newsroom, who has covered health, nutrition, parenting and culture for dozens of magazines and websites over the past two decades.
Nutrition Lab Director
Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping’s on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.