ARE WE OVER-HYDRATED?

The other day a friend told me that a person can never drink too much water. She was wrong,  so I corrected her.

Drinking too much water can cause over-hydration, which can lead to water intoxication. This occurs when the amount of salt and other electrolytes in the body become too diluted. Hyponatremia is a condition in which sodium (salt) levels become dangerously low. This is the main concern of over-hydration. It can even be fatal, which is very rare, but it has occurred.

So how much water do we need?

Who knows? It depends on so many factors: age, height, weight, physical condition, physical activity, temperature. There is no formal recommendation for a daily amount of water people need.

Contrary to many stories you may hear, there’s no real scientific proof that, for otherwise healthy people, drinking extra water has any health benefits. While water can contribute to skin’s moisture retention and help reduce the formation of wrinkles for instance, reviews have failed to find that there’s any evidence that drinking “excess” water keeps skin better hydrated and wrinkle free.

But, we’ve been told we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. After all, our bodies are, on average, 55 – 60 percent water.

We could do that, and I’m sure you wouldn’t become water intoxicated, but we don’t need to. We get plenty of water from many sources, i.e., juice, coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables and other food we eat. Here’s a list of the percent water content by weight of just a few foods:

Cucumber 96.7%

Iceberg lettuce 95.6%

Celery 95.4%

Radishes 95.3%

Tomatoes 94.5%.

Green Peppers 93.9%

Cauliflower 92.1%

Spinach 91.4%

Broccoli 90.7%

Baby carrots 90.4%

Then there’s soup, applesauce, apples, yogurt, blueberries, etc. Why even a potato is 79 percent water, corn 76 percent, and cooked meats and poultry range between 55 – 65 percent.

So, what’s a person to do? How do we know if we’re getting enough water?

Two simple indicators: 

  1. Thirst. The human body is finely tuned to signal you to drink long before you are actually dehydrated.
  2. Urine. If your urine is clear or looks like lemonade, terrific. you’re getting enough water. The darker it is the more dehydrated you are.

How about taste? 50 billion bottles of water are sold annually in the US. Does bottled water taste better than tap water, and is it healthier?

As for purity of tap vs. bottled water, I think people generally perceive bottled water to be purer, but some will disagree, citing regulations pertaining to city water. Personally, I find bottled water very convenient, but surely all those plastic bottles are not good for the environment.

Taste is so subjective, I can’t tell you what might taste better for you. I will quote from just one study below from a number of years ago.

ABC News ran a taste test of two imported waters, Evian and Iceland Spring, vs. Aquafina  (America’s big seller), American Fares (Kmart’s brand), Poland Spring (bottled in America, not Poland), and some water from a public drinking fountain in New York City.

Result: Only one water got “bad” ratings: Evian, the most expensive. The water the tasters liked best was Kmart’s. Aquafina ranked second. Poland Spring came in fifth. Tied for third were the import from Iceland and New York City tap water.

To quote from the book** in which I discovered this study:

In other words, reservoir water—squeezed through the antique pipes of New York City before emerging from a water fountain in Harlem—tastes as good as expensive imports.”

 

 

** Stossel, J., 2006, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity, Hyperion. New York