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First Lady Michelle Obama recently launched a campaign to encourage people to drink more water. She said that drinking water was the single best thing we could do to improve our health. She also stated that “water is the best energy drink.”
Is it true? Are her recommendations based on facts?
Forty-three percent of Americans drink less than four cups of water daily, and 25 percent of children do not drink any water daily (federal statistics).
Drinking more water makes intuitive sense. We all know the 8 by 8 rule – drink 8 glasses (8 oz) of water a day. But is this based on hard data? Let’s examine.
There are no good scientific studies to support this recommendation; however, there are a number of observational trials that support the notion that water is an essential ingredient for our health.
Let us look at the guidelines set by the Institute of Medicine: Total water intake should be 91 ounces for women and 125 ounces for men (from all food and beverages combined). Usually, about 25 percent of water comes from our food. Also note that all fluids count, even caffeinated beverages. So, an average female needs to consume approximately 70 ounces of fluids, and an average male requires about 90 ounces of fluids every day. Of course, these figures are approximate, and fluid requirement can be highly individualized.
Most of us get enough water in the foods and liquids that we consume on a daily basis. Our kidneys have a sophisticated filtration mechanism regulated by hormones (mainly ADH) that regulates fluid (and electrolyte) balance. Most healthy people can let thirst be a guide of water intake. Also look at the color of your urine – if dark and concentrated, you might need to increase your water intake.
Can we drink too much water?
Although uncommon, it is possible to drink too much water. This could be the case if you have congestive heart failure or an underlying condition involving the kidneys or liver, predisposing you to fluid overload. It is advisable to check with your doctor regarding this. Rarely, drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia/low sodium in blood (some patients with disease of the adrenal glands, or endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, who drink large amounts of water). In general, though, drinking too much water rarely causes any problems in healthy adults.
Switch out Soda for Water!
According to the Harvard School of Public Health: Two out of three adults and one out of three children in the United States are overweight or obese, and the nation spends an estimated $190 billion each year treating obesity-related health conditions. Rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. A typical 20-ounce soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar and upwards of 240 calories. A 64-ounce fountain cola drink could have up to 700 calories. People who drink this “liquid candy” do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food and do not compensate by eating less.
Even though the First Lady’s campaign may not be based on scientific data, drinking more water is healthier for most people, especially if they switch out soda consumption with water. Tap water vs. bottled water is a whole different debate, and I will leave that for some other time.
Contributed by Dr. Chris Prakash
This information is strictly an opinion of Dr. Prakash and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Dr. Chris Prakash is a contributing columnist and author of eParisExtra’s “The Doctor is In” column. He is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology Paris. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Oncology and Hematology and lives in Paris, Texas with his wife and two children. Dr. Prakash can be reached at 903.785.0031 or Sucharu.email@example.com.