I love how often people latch onto an idea, and quickly it becomes fact. Just like the widespread belief that we need to drink 8 glasses of water per day. And then there are many online assertions about how water will make your skin look younger and have more energy. How much truth is in these claims? How much water do we really need to drink each day?
This set me out on a fun little online scavenger hunt. I wanted to see what the medical research community is saying about water consumption. Here’s what I found.
How Much Water You Really Need
A study out of University of North Carolina looked to evaluate our overall knowledge about water consumption and how it affects health. The researchers Barry Popkin et. al. examined patterns of intake, effects on health, energy and human functioning, and the complex mechanisms behind water homeostasis. They published their work in Nutrition Reviews in 2011.
The study highlighted that we consume water for two reasons. One is called regulatory drinking, governed by thirst and the physical body. Researchers believe this type of drinking plays a very small role in our day-to-day water consumption.
The other is non-regulatory drinking. This means we consume fluids as part of everyday foods (milks, soups, juices), as stimulating beverages (tea, coffee), and for pure pleasure (alcohol). This type of drinking makes up most of our fluid intake.
Basically, we drink lots of fluids because we want to. They taste good, and coincidentally they replenish water reserves in the body before thirst and dehydration happen. The down side is that drinking caloric beverages can contribute to an intake of caloric nutrients (such as sugar) in excess of daily requirements.
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In their evaluation of water intake requirements, Popkin et. al. decided that it was not possible to estimate an average requirement. The amount of water that we consume in caloric beverages for taste and pleasure varies widely. Then, we have to consider the amount of water in the foods we eat, as in the figure below. As well, the level of activity also fluctuates from person to person, day to day.
In conclusion, they wrote:
Given the extreme variability in water needs that are not solely based on differences in metabolism, but also on environmental conditions and activities, there is not a single level of water intake that would assure adequate hydration and optimum health for half of all apparently healthy persons in all environmental conditions.
In the end, the researchers decided it made sense to publish a table of adequate intake (AI), versus estimated average requirements. The AI was based on age and calorie recommendations. These AIs are displayed in the table below.
Drinking Plain Water Will Benefit Your Weight
Considering that we’re getting water from our foods and all the beverages we consume, it’s important to point out that drinking plain water has its benefits. It keeps you fuller, so you’re less likely to consumer as many calories.
One study from the University of Illinois proved this concept. Researchers found that drinking one to three extra glasses of plain water daily can decrease your total energy intake by up to 205 calories a day. This means that you’re more likely to be able to manage your weight.
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Although there aren’t very many studies that prove the medical benefits of drinking 8 glasses of water per day, lots of research shows the benefits of good hydration. Popkin et. al. write:
Good hydration is associated with a reduction in urinary tract infections, hypertension, fatal coronary heart disease, venous thromboembolism, and cerebral infarct but all these effects need to be confirmed by clinical trials.
As far as I’m concerned, it seems that it’s absolutely worth drinking an extra three or four glasses of water each day, in addition to eating healthy foods and having various tasty “pleasure” beverages like teas and juice.
Remember that water accounts for up to 65% of the human body. Some organs contain an even larger percentage. For example, water makes up 73% of the heart and brain, and babies are born at about 78% water.
Another important point to consider is water quality. It is common for anyone distributing water on a mass scale to use chemicals in order to ensure certain cleanliness and safety standards. Even if there is no malicious intent behind chemically-treating water, the results can be dangerous. For the best quality drinking water, make sure you have a high quality water filtration system at your home.
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Moreover, views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Awareness Junkie or its staff.