Drinking enough water is obviously important, but a new study shows that the benefits of drinking just a little extra water might be even greater than we thought.

Increasing water consumption by just 1 percent was linked to reduced total daily calorie intake (8.6 calories on average) and reduced consumption of saturated fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol. And no need for anything fancy either. Study participants drank plain water — tap water or from a drinking fountain or bottle.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, analyzed the dietary habits of more than 18,300 U.S. adults over seven years. Researchers observed that those who increased how much water they ingested by one to three cups per day also reduced their daily calorie intake by 68 to 205 calories. To put this in perspective, the average number of calories consumed daily by the study’s participants was 2,157 (more for men, less for women, on average) and they drank about 4.2 cups of plain water every day, which accounted for about 30 percent of their total dietary water intake. (The rest of the water is found in the food itself.) This means that just by drinking from one to three cups of extra water, an average participant reduced energy intake between 3.2 percent and 9.5 percent. That’s not insignificant, especially when combined with other healthy diet and exercise habits.

the benefits of drinking waterA few extra cups of water cut calorie intake by 68 to 205 calories. (Photo: moyerphotos/flickr)

This daily caloric reduction broke down, on average, to a drop of 78 to 235 grams sodium, 5 to 18 grams sugar, and 7 to 21 grams cholesterol.

Decreases in calories, sodium, sugar and cholesterol were found to be greater in men than in women, and were also greater in middle-aged adults than older adults. This is thought to be because these groups have higher daily energy intake in the first place. Otherwise, the beneficial effects of drinking more water on people’s diet were “similar across race/ethnicity, education attainment, income level and body weight status,” said Ruopeng An, a University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor.

There are other health benefits to consuming more water too. For example, a 2014 study found that not getting enough water can have a negative impact on your emotions.

With results like these, don’t be shy ... drink up that marvelous water of life!

Michael Graham Richard ( @Michael_GR ) Michael writes for MNN and TreeHugger about science, space and technology and more.