Many people believe that in order to stay healthy we all need to drink 2.5 litres of water per day (plus or minus half a litre, depending on your weight and level of physical activity). Almost every day, we hear and read statements like, ’not drinking enough water is bad for your health’; or ’you need to drink water even when you’re not thirsty.’ However, Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, believes that there is no good scientific evidence behind any of these claims.
Nevertheless, the recommendation to ’drink as much fluid as you can tolerate’ circulates widespread in our society and is generally accepted. But the truth is, myths like these just play on our fears about one day experiencing serious health problems.
Nine years ago, a BMJ medical journal published a list of common medical and health-related beliefs that are widely reproduced by doctors and in the media. The myth that we need eight glasses of water a day took the first place in the list. This article was widely reprinted by on news sites and covered by many famous magazines around the world. A couple of years later, scientists even published a book dispelling false notions about water, but the popular myth didn’t go away — people continued to worry.
As the authors of the book claim, the approximate adequate daily intake of fluids does come to 2.5 litres. But most of this water is contained in prepared foods, vegetables, fruit and beverages like tea or coffee.
So, you don’t need to worry about being thirsty. In fact, the human body is finely tuned to signal you to that you need to drink long before you’re actually dehydrated. Contrary to many common beliefs, there’s no real scientific proof that drinking extra water has any health benefits for your skin or kidneys. Moreover, consuming too much water can lead to serious kidney problems.
Rehydration is important only when your body is using more fluids than usual, e.g. when you are ill, have been working out intensively, or have otherwise been sweating excessively.
So, drinking water just because you feel the need to keep yourself ’on schedule’ with your fluid intake is pointless. The only people who will actually benefit from this habit are the manufacturers of bottled water!
Ultimately, pay attention to the signals your body sends you: if you feel thirsty, drink; if you don’t feel thirsty, don’t drink unless you want to. And stop thinking that eight glasses of water is mandatory.
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