The Medical Myth That Will Not Die

glasses of water


Pop quiz! How many glasses of water do you need to drink each day to stay hydrated and healthy? At least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, right?


There’s absolutely no reason to slug down 64 ounces of water daily simply to ward off dehydration.  And that’s good news because most of us have never managed to drink eight glasses of water a day on a steady basis anyway.

The whole you must drink eight glasses of water or you will dry out, turn into dust and blow away in the wind or at least fall over in a heatstroke induced faint thing is described by medical researchers as the myth that simply will not die.

Many people believe that the source of the liquid legend was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But somehow everyone blithely ignored the sentence following that statement, which noted that the majority of our fluid needs are satisfied through the consumption of food.  Any shortfall could be easily addressed via a wide variety of beverage choices including coffee (oh, so you think coffee dehydrates you? That’s another medical myth), tea, milk, juice, beer, etc. Or, if you like, an actual glass of water.

When it comes to simply hydration, there’s not much difference between liquids. But from a dental health perspective, water is the best of all possible drinks. It contains no sugar or acids, which encourage dental decay. Rinsing with water after meals or after consuming acidy drinks like fruit juice will also help reduce oral health issues,

In some cases, drinking lots of water is a good and necessary thing. Particular types of kidney stones, for example, can bet better managed if those who are prone to them flush their systems often by drinking water. Barring medical issues trust your body’s guidance. For most of us, the best thing is to drink water (or another liquid) when we are thirsty, and stop drinking when we are not thirsty.

Your body is good at keeping you alive. It will signal you quite clearly that you should drink something long before you are actually dehydrated. How much fluid you need daily is based on what you eat, the climate, how big you are and what you happen to be doing at any particular moment. If you’re jogging in semi-tropical Florida during the summer, you’re going to need more water than your friend who is relaxing in a hammock.

Be skeptical when you look at dire statistics about the level of personal hydration in the developed world, under average conditions. If the study was funded by a company that sells bottled water, for example, chances are the study will find that we all need to drink more water. So much water that we need to carry around personal bottles of water wherever we go.

“It’s possible that there are children who need to be better hydrated. But at some point, we are at risk of calling an ordinary healthy condition a disease. When two-thirds of healthy children, year after year, are found to have a laboratory value that you are labeling “abnormal,” it may be the definition, and not their health, that is off,” said Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.

It is a very healthy way of keeping yourself hydrated.  But it will make you feel perkier, clear your acne, plump up your wrinkles, make you skinny or cure many of your ailments.

And all that said; don’t underestimate the power of water. The scarcity of pure drinking water is a highly urgent issue for many developing nations. Drought is a profound problem. Water is utterly essential to life, but it is not essential to consume eight glasses of it on a daily basis.


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