Does the Ice Diet Work?

What the Ice Diet Is (and Why It Doesn't Work)

The premise of the ice diet is that it takes energy to melt ice, so you can lose weight by eating it. According to the science, you'd have to eat an impractical amount of ice to see any benefit.
The premise of the ice diet is that it takes energy to melt ice, so you can lose weight by eating it. According to the science, you'd have to eat an impractical amount of ice to see any benefit. Tom Grill, Getty Images

Question: Does the ice diet work?

I've heard about something called the ice diet. Does it work? It seems like an easy way to burn off calories.

Answer: The Ice Diet is a proposed diet in which people say that eating ice causes your body to spend energy to heat the ice. Similarly, some diets suggest the drinking of a lot of ice water to help burn calories. While it's true you need to drink water to metabolize fat and it's also true energy is required in order to change the state of matter of ice into water, eating ice simply doesn't burn enough calories to matter.

 Here's the science of why this diet doesn't work.

The Ice Diet Premise

The calorie is a measurement of heat energy which is defined as the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a gram of water one degree. In the case of solid ice, it also takes 80 calories to turn a gram of ice into liquid water.

Therefore, eating one gram of ice (0 degrees Celsius) will burn calories to heat it to body temperature (about 37 degrees Celsius), plus 80 calories for the actual melting process. Each gram of ice causes the expenditure of approximately 117 calories. Eating an ounce of ice therefore causes the burning of approximately 3,317 calories.

Considering that losing a pound of weight requires the burning of 3,500 Calories, this sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn't it?

Why the Ice Diet Doesn't Work

The problem is that when talking about food, we're talking about Calories (capital C - also called a kilogram calorie) instead of calories (lowercase c - also called a gram calorie), resulting in:

1,000 calories = 1 Calorie

Performing the above calculations for kilogram Calories, we find that a single kilogram of ice consumed takes 117 calories. To reach the 3,500 Calories required to lose a pound of weight, it would be necessary to consume about 30 kilograms of ice. This equates to consuming about 66 pounds of ice to lose a single pound of weight.

Therefore, if you did everything else exactly the same, but consumed a pound of ice a day, you would lose a pound of weight every two months. Not exactly the most efficient diet plan.

There are some other issues to consider, which are more biological. For example, some of the thermal energy involved may not actually be a result of biochemical metabolic processes. In other words, melting ice into water may not really result in calories burned from the metabolic storehouse of energy.

Ice Diet - The Bottom Line

Yes, it's important to drink water if you're trying to lose weight. Yes, if you eat ice you'll burn slightly more calories than if you drank the equivalent amount of water. However, it's not enough calories to aid your weight loss efforts, you could harm your teeth eating ice, and you'll still need to drink water. Now, if you really want to use temperature to lose weight, just lower the temperature of the room or take cold showers. Then, your body has to expend energy to maintain your core temperature and you'll actually burn calories! Ice diet? Not scientifically sound.

Edited by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

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Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. "Does the Ice Diet Work?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 10, 2016, thoughtco.com/does-the-ice-diet-work-2699280. Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. (2016, September 10). Does the Ice Diet Work? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/does-the-ice-diet-work-2699280 Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. "Does the Ice Diet Work?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/does-the-ice-diet-work-2699280 (accessed September 23, 2017).