Water's Great Health Debate

New studies slam water’s perceived health benefits

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Two weeks ago, NPR had a report on “Five Myths About Drinking Water” that caught my attention because it discredited, oh, a decade of common thinking regarding our push to stay hydrated. The report interviewed a Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a kidney expert at the University of Pennsylvania, who researched every study on water and published his findings in The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Here’s what he found:

  • There’s no evidence that people need 8 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.
  • Staying hydrated doesn’t help your body flush out toxins; that’s a function of your kidneys, not fluid levels.
  • There’s no concrete proof that drinking water improves the healthy glow of your skin.
  • Drinking extra water instead of eating doesn’t make anyone less hungry.

The doctor’s recommendation regarding thirst comes down to this: If you’re thirsty, drink something. This has got to be a sad day for all the people hauling giant sippy-cups with them wherever they go or those who invested in a $40 couture water-bottle holster.

Of course the report did mention that active, athletic people need to pay close attention to their hydration levels. I’m glad they did that; I’ve been a big proponent of drinking a water bottle’s worth of water for each hour of exercise to keep your performance levels up. I also believe that there’s another time when a tall glass of water does you good no matter if you’re thirsty or not. That’s right after you wake up in the morning. It seems logical that after 7-8 hours of shut-eye, your body’s going to be dehydrated. So kick off the day with a glass of water after you go to the bathroom and before your first cup of coffee.

I don’t have any hard study to point to on this one, but I do know that if I tried to go 8 hours without a drink during the day, I’d go insane with thirst. I also know that the body loses water with every exhale whether I’m snoring away the night or sitting at my computer by day. Soooo, I have to think I’m dehydrated when I wake up. Feel free to tell me otherwise. Or try it for yourself. Put 10-12 ounces of water by your bed at night and drink it when you alarm goes off. If you’re like me, you may find yourself having an easier time waking up.

Over the last decade Grant Davis has been writing and editing articles about health, fitness, and nutrition. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.