No, You Don’t Need To Drink 64 Ounces Of Water A Day
Kevin Drum debunks a myth that seems to persist:
why am I writing about this yet again? Because I’m amused by the fact that every couple of years someone rediscovers this myth, looks into it, and publishes a journal article debunking it. Valtin wrote about water requirements in 2002, the Institute of Medicine tackled the subject in 2004, and in 2008 Dan Negoianu and Stanley Goldfarb published a comprehensive piece in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology concluding that for normal, healthy people there’s no evidence one way or the other that drinking lots of water has any health benefits. It doesn’t clear your kidneys of toxins, it doesn’t improve organ function, it doesn’t help you lose weight, it doesn’t prevent headaches, and it doesn’t improve your skin tone. (On the other hand, it doesn’t do any harm, either. If you’re thirsty, feel free to drink some water.)
But that was three years ago, so it’s time for another go-around. Jen Quraishi has the latest debunking today, reporting on a piece by Margaret McCartney in the current issue of the British Medical Journal. This time, though, there’s a brand new source of dubious hydration nonsense to be debunked: the bottled water industry:
While McCartney didn’t see evidence backing up the 2-liter-a-day rule, she did see bottled water companies pushing the “water=health” idea to sell more of their products. As McCartney wrote on her blog: “The bottled water industry is pushing the idea that we should drink more than we normally would with the promise of health benefits, and I don’t think there are any. That’s all. And I would recommend tap rather than bottled water: cheaper, and far better for environment.” The bottled water companies were not happy with McCartney’s attitude. In response, the European Federation of Bottled Waters wrote a letter to BMJ about McCartney’s article and cited a recommendation that “at least two liters of water should be consumed per day.”
I’ve always been amused by the fact that the bottled-water industry has succeeded in getting Americans to pay what is,when you compare the numbers, an exorbitant price for a product that comes out of multiple faucets in our homes for a relatively cheap price. At first, the argument was that bottled water tasted better, or was purer. The taste test has been debunked by, well, taste tests that have shown municipal water being picked as “tastes better” than bottled water. As for purity, to the extent you’re concerned about that there are a number of filters you can buy that perform the same function for a cheaper price. Now, it seems, they’re pushing the idea that we need to drink more of their product, which is amusingly similar to some old commercials for soda in the 1950s and 60s that reassured mothers that drinking soda would be good for their children.
So no, you don’t need to drink 64 ounces of water a day, and you don’t need to pay extra for the privilege of drinking whatever amount you might choose to drink.
Update: NPR clues us in to a new phenomenon, Organic Water:
A funny thing happened at the Fancy Food Show in Washington the other day.
We were cruising through the various food exhibits from around the world, checking out the latest goodies, including gluten-free snacks, quinoa in a bag, and relaxation drinks, and then we came upon the food display from Wales.
Perched on a white tablecloth we noticed some very sleek water bottles, labeled Illanllyr SOURCE. A serious guy named Eric Ewell eagerly offered us a taste, “Try this pristine organic water.” We choked back a giggle. Organic? Really?
As the company’s website says, “Illanllyr … comes from our sources beneath certified organic fields in west Wales in the UK.” So, Ewell says, the water has never been tainted with chemicals, making it organic as it as it emerges from the ground.
OK, so the soil above the water source is organic. We get that. But the water itself, organic? Maybe it’s time to separate out the marketing buzz words from the science.
Remember the properties of water? H2O means each molecule of water contains two atoms of hydrogen (H) joined to one atom of oxygen (O). In order for something to be organic — as in alive — it needs carbon. So water, by definition is inorganic.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which defines the term organic when it comes to agricultural products in this country, specifically excludes water and salt. Table salt, or NaCl, is made up of sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl). No carbon there, either, folks.
“This is kind of silly. Of course, people can buy and sell what they want, but this is an example that people know so little about water,” Charles Fishman tells Shots. He’s the author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water.
Stories like this remind me of the an old saying. There’s a sucker born every minute.
Update via Twitter