The 8 Glasses of Water Myth
Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a dean the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, explains why drinking large amounts of water each day provides zero benefits to one’s health.
Water, Water Everywhere . . . (The Weekly Standard)
How many times have you seen a young woman toting around a large plastic container filled with pure spring water–a commodity more precious than fuel at the pump–from the hills of Colorado, Pennsylvania, the Alps or some such high elevation? Is she really constantly thirsty? Is her need for water really three or four or more quarts per day? Does it make her skin more radiant? Is it just plain healthy? Will she become dehydrated unless she forces the water down at a steady pace? Should she follow the mayor of Philadelphia’s trademark advice and “Don’t forget to drink your water”? Correct answers: No, no, no, no, no, and sometimes.
The supposed health benefit of consuming large volumes of water has become one of those urban myths that even some physicians have come to endorse without real insight into the science underlying water intake and its effects on the body.
Several Nobel Prizes, the latest in 2004, have been awarded for discoveries that explain how humans perfectly regulate the total amount of water in the body. The marvelous system that regulates the body’s water content nearly perfectly prevents any excess, unless individuals consume enormous amounts (greater than a quart per hour for several hours) or they have a condition that impairs the normal robust capacity of their kidneys to eliminate over 20 quarts per day. As soon as a few ounces of extra water are consumed, a master hormone called anti-diuretic hormone (the name derives from the hormone’s capacity to stimulate the kidney to retain water) falls to undetectable levels and allows the kidney to excrete, in a matter of minutes, all of the surplus water ingested. This system–the hormone originates in the brain and acts upon a specific part of the kidney–exists in virtually all animals; It can lead to the retention of virtually all water ingested, if the body has a true water deficit, or the excretion of as much as 20 to 25 quarts of water per day, if intake of water is that excessive. It maintains perfect balance over the years so that total body water remains within a percent or so of the baseline for as long as one is healthy.
Our young woman toting around her bottle of water can only retain a few extra ounces in her body no matter how quickly she drinks it. Moreover, the amount she can retain is truly only a drop in the bucket. The svelte 5’9″ woman who weighs, say 125 lbs., has about 75 lbs. of water (about 35 quarts) in her body. The extra water retained in a few sips hardly increases the body’s content of water and even then, the excess is rapidly eliminated in the urine. Therefore there is no possibility that consumed water can make a sustained difference in anything but how often she needs to find a ladies room.
Indeed. The bottom line is that, except for people with kidney stones and a handful of other medical problems, there is simply no need to drink large amounts of water. And, for that matter, natural spring water is not particularly more beneficial than, say, iced tea.