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Can lemon water help fatty liver?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition where excess fat builds up in the liver. It affects 25% of adults globally and is the most common chronic liver disease in Western countries (1). NAFLD can progress to more serious liver problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer. Lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are first-line treatments, but some people look to natural remedies like lemon water. This article reviews the research on lemon water and fatty liver to help you decide if it could be beneficial.

What causes fatty liver?

Fatty liver occurs when too much fat accumulates in liver cells. The most common causes are (2, 3):

– Obesity: Carrying excess weight, especially around the abdomen, raises fatty liver risk.

– Insulin resistance: This causes fat to build up in the liver and is common in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

– Poor diet: Diets high in refined carbs, sugar, and processed foods contribute to fatty liver.

– Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity also raises your risk.

Genetics and certain medical conditions like high triglycerides and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may also play a role. However, the central driving factors behind the high rates of fatty liver disease today are overweight/obesity and insulin resistance (4).

What is lemon water?

Lemon water is simply the juice from lemons mixed with water. It’s a popular health drink people use for:

– Detoxification

– Weight loss

– Liver health

– Immunity

– pH balancing

Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and compounds that support your health in various ways. As a low-calorie, caffeine-free beverage, lemon water is often preferred over sugary drinks or juices (5).

Does lemon water help treat fatty liver disease?

There’s limited research specifically on lemon water and fatty liver disease. However, a few studies suggest the ingredients in lemon water may benefit liver health and metabolic factors tied to fatty liver.

Vitamin C

Lemons are packed with vitamin C, providing about 30% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) in just 1 fluid ounce (30 ml) of juice (6).

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress contributes significantly to fatty liver disease (7).

In one study, people with fatty liver had significantly lower blood levels of vitamin C. Taking vitamin C supplements for 2 months increased antioxidant activity and led to modest reductions in liver fat, insulin resistance, inflammatory markers, and oxidative stress (8).

Another study found that combining vitamin C with vitamin E provided even greater improvements in liver enzymes and oxidative stress for people with fatty liver (9).

So, the high vitamin C content of lemon juice may reduce oxidative damage linked to fatty liver progression.


Lemons also contain plant compounds called flavonoids, mainly eriocitrin, hesperidin, and naringenin (10).

Flavonoids provide many health benefits. In the context of fatty liver, they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may protect liver cells (11, 12).

Some research also indicates flavonoids may reduce insulin resistance, body weight, triglycerides, and other risk factors tied to fatty liver (13, 14).

One study in mice with fatty liver found 4 weeks of treatment with hesperidin reduced liver enzymes, liver fat, oxidative stress, and inflammation (15).

Naringenin may also activate a receptor called PPAR-alpha that ramps up fat burning and reduces liver fat accumulation in animal studies (16).

So the flavonoids in lemons appear beneficial for protecting against fatty liver risk factors. More research is needed to confirm their direct effects on treating fatty liver in humans.

Supporting weight loss

Weight loss is one of the most effective natural remedies for fatty liver, even without other lifestyle changes (17). Losing as little as 5–10% of your body weight can significantly decrease liver fat in overweight people (18).

Some research suggests lemon water could potentially support weight loss:

– It has virtually no calories, unlike sugary beverages that contribute excess calories and obesity risk (19).

– The flavonoids may help reduce appetite and food intake, which aids weight loss (14, 20).

– Drinking more water is linked to reduced calorie intake and body weight (21, 22).

– Hot or warm lemon water upon waking may stimulate digestion and metabolism to some degree.

That said, no studies have tested whether replacing caloric drinks with lemon water promotes weight loss. The effects would likely be quite modest if any, but could be helpful alongside an overall healthy diet and active lifestyle.

Other tips to reduce liver fat

Drinking lemon water is just one small strategy for protecting liver health. Here are some other effective ways to reduce liver fat naturally:

– Cut back on high-carb, high-sugar processed foods. Follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil (23, 24).

– Reduce excess body weight through diet and exercise. Even a 5–10% weight loss can significantly decrease liver fat (17, 18).

– Engage in regular aerobic and resistance training to improve insulin sensitivity and body composition (25).

– Optimize vitamin D levels, either through sunlight, fortified foods, or supplements, if deficient (26).

– Increase intake of coffee and tea, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits for the liver (27).

– Limit alcohol intake, as alcohol and its byproducts directly damage liver cells (28).

– Try supplements like milk thistle, berberine, curcumin, and omega-3 fatty acids under medical supervision. These show promise for reducing liver fat and inflammation in some studies (29).

Making lifestyle adjustments should be your first priority, but lemon water could be a nice complementary addition as a low-calorie beverage choice.


Research on lemon water and fatty liver specifically is limited. However, lemons provide vitamin C, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds that may protect liver health.

Lemon water supports weight loss and metabolic health when used to replace high-calorie beverages. Along with an overall healthy lifestyle, it may be a useful addition for reducing risk factors for fatty liver like obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress.

That said, modifying your diet, exercising, and losing excess weight should be the foundation of any fatty liver treatment plan. Drinking lemon water alone is unlikely to resolve fatty liver, but may provide some benefits when combined with major lifestyle changes.