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August 10, 2002
4:42 AM   Subscribe

Water for thought. Is 8ouncesx8glasses a day a myth at best or a beverage industry conspiracy at worst? "I did 43 years of research on that system -- the osmoregulatory system. That system is so precise and so fast that I find it impossible to believe that evolution left us with a chronic water deficit" ..just drink enough to slake thirst -- and this includes coffee, tea, and even beer!
posted by stbalbach (31 comments total)

 
While he does say he's referring to people in the temperate zones, I think if he lived in the tropics during summer, he probably would say something like "While the body doesn't need that much water, it's good to drink that much when it's hot outside."

I am not sure about what kind of research he did, but I do remember Indian doctors claiming about 15 or so years back that drinking 8 glasses of water not only helped replenish the body, but it also helped cool the body down, by making up for the loss of water through sweat and providing more water so that it can lost as sweat, and make your kidneys do less work, which I thought was a good thing.
posted by riffola at 5:41 AM on August 10, 2002


...a beverage industry conspiracy...

You're kidding right?
posted by revbrian at 5:42 AM on August 10, 2002


Water intoxication is one deadly effect of taking the drug Ecstasy, for instance, because it makes people thirsty beyond their physical needs.

No. Ecstasy can make people want to dance, and the dancing can make them dehydrated. Users often dance for hours, and they don't feel as thirsty from such exertion as they normally would; hence all the water-drinking at raves. Ravers who die of water intoxication die because they have been misinformed (by outside sources, not their own bodies) by sources saying that ecstasy use in general has to be accompanied by as much water as possible, whether you're dancing or just sitting around. Cases in point here and here.
posted by bingo at 5:56 AM on August 10, 2002


There's a distinct difference between the need for and effects of eight glasses of water a day for a sedentary Dilbert type and the same amount for a more active person, too. Factor in the varying effects of weather (you can get dehydrated exerting yourself on a cold winter day btw), and it's kind of hard to say what is the right amount of water to keep you properly hydrated.

That being said, sipping water throughout the day (as opposed to frequently chug-a-lugging it) won't hurt and certainly can help. If you're relatively active, though -- at least on your feet and walking around, as opposed to sitting in a cubicle and staring at a computer screen all day -- the rules of thumb are drink a little more than you think you need, a little sooner than you feel you need it, and if you're having to pee once in a while, you're doing it right.
posted by alumshubby at 6:03 AM on August 10, 2002


I thought that drinking that much water every day helped the body flush out excess chemicals, preservatives, undigested fats, etc from the bad food we eat. Is that not true?
posted by amberglow at 7:11 AM on August 10, 2002


Slightly concerned with the prospects of "Water Intoxication" ... but oh well it's always something...
posted by mhaw at 7:20 AM on August 10, 2002


Ultimately, I think it all depends on the individual. If you eat a totally natural diet, there is little need for excessive water drinking.

However, the average person eats far more salt, fat and chemicals than nature intended. Hence the need for more water.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Your Body's Many Cries for Water. According to this doctor, dehydration is the root cause of the majority of illness.
posted by Miss Beth at 7:35 AM on August 10, 2002


After being told by my mother that I should drink 8 glasses a day (though never having witnessed her doing the same), I decided to try it out.

For a couple of weeks, I drank water nearly nonstop.

Results: I was running to the bathroom all the time, but I felt GREAT. Nothing terribly specific or profound, but I just felt generally better healthwise than I had in a long time.

So there's my anecdotal support for water drinking.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:41 AM on August 10, 2002


If there is a beverage conspiracy, he is part of it. How many people go to a restaurant and order water, if nothing else, because it helps them get to their 8x8 cycle. If somebody says you don't need to drink all that water, you could just as easily order a coke.
posted by benjh at 7:45 AM on August 10, 2002


"...much of this (the "recommended" 64 oz. per day) is already contained in food."

And there you have it...virtually all foods have water in them, and consuming these foods counts towards the magical 64 ounces per day. When the initial study on this came out (back in the late 40s, IIRC), that little tidbit was often left out of the resulting news articles and conversations.
posted by davidmsc at 7:58 AM on August 10, 2002


I find it hard to agree with that article. Like katieinshoes above, I actually feel better when I drink lots of water every day. On an average day, I drink at a bare minimum of 100 ounces of water, and on a day in which I'm exercising (which I obviously need to drink more), I've drank an ounce of water for every pound of my body weight (180). Really, although that might sound a bit high, that's probably a pretty good amount. You've also got to consider that your body is technically about 75% water, so I'm a big fan of keeping everything flowing as cleanly as possible. In some ways, I think it's easy to liken it to changing oil in your car. Sure, you could probably drive 5000 miles on one oil change (live on one or less glasses of water a day) and not much will happen, but in the long run it will be better for your car if you get an oil change every 2 or 3000 miles (better for your body if you drink more water and help keep your system clean). I might be full of it, but I can't argue with feeling well.
posted by almostcool at 8:04 AM on August 10, 2002


One consideration: Warming a 16 oz glass of ice water to body temperature burns 17 calories; warming 64 oz burns 67 calories, roughly the amount burned by jogging 2/3 of a mile. These numbers are from lab conditions; actual numbers in a human system may be slightly different, but probably not by much.
posted by mischief at 8:07 AM on August 10, 2002


Ok, it's the physician talking again. I think there's a case to be made for the idea that water intoxication doesn't occur in healthy people and that you'd be hard pressed to consume enough water to get there. That said, there are conditions that arise that can cause over hydration and dilution of body electrolytes SIADH is one such condition. A good more general discussion of low sodium conditions is here. Sadly, I havent found non-technical discussions, but hey, it's a start.
posted by shagoth at 8:36 AM on August 10, 2002


mischief, I think that

jogging 2/3 of a mile burns 67 kilocalories, not calories.

posted by goethean at 8:57 AM on August 10, 2002


Thanks for the link, benjh. Quite disgusting. "[A]lmost all participating restaurants realized significant increases in beverage sales and reduced levels of tap water incidence — a strong indication that Olive Garden restaurants succeeded in enhancing the customer's dining experience." Clearly, a customer spending more money means her dining experience MUST have been enhanced! The author doesn't even mention that many restaurant patrons (and non-patrons, for that matter) are going to drink tap water because it's FREE. What enhances my dining experience is knowing I don't have to spend an extra two bucks on a Sprite, and that the waiters aren't going to try to bully me into doing so.
posted by ramakrishna at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2002


While I will agree that most people don't need to drink as much water as they do, I can tell you from personal experience that when I sip water all day, I feel fine the next day. When I sip soda and tea all day, I wake up the next morning with chapped lips and other signs of dehydration.

"Then there is the inconvenience of constant urination, the embarrassment of having to go to the bathroom all the time," he added.

When did it become embarassing to go to the bathroom? Did I miss the memo? An average adult urinates about five or six times a day, and a typical urination is about 300 ml, about two one-liter bottles daily. Having to excuse oneself a few times a day to go to the bathroom shouldn't be an embarassment, and if you are having to go more frequently than that, you are either taking in too much liquid or there might be something else wrong with you.

No one ever told me that I should drink 8 glasses of water a day. My parents were both die hard coffee drinkers (and I mean that's all they drank aside from milk with dinner). I like water. Drinking it makes me feel better, and it keeps me from getting UTIs. Just my opinion, but no one will ever convince me that drinking soda, coffee or tea in place of plain old water is just as healthy for you.
posted by Orb at 9:17 AM on August 10, 2002


i don't drink much other than water, and i try to follow two rules:

1: if i'm feeling thirsty i'm already dehydrated
2: i should be drinking often enough that my urine is basically clear
posted by fore at 9:22 AM on August 10, 2002


I thought that drinking that much water every day helped the body flush out excess chemicals, preservatives, undigested fats, etc from the bad food we eat. Is that not true?

That is not true; for example, fats are not even water soluble; that is why they are excreted in the bile. Most chemicals in our food are taken care of by the liver; the body only needs to produce about 50 cc of urine per hour to get rid of wastes.

Here is a good article on the 8 glasses of water a day myth.
posted by TedW at 9:29 AM on August 10, 2002


mischief, I think that

jogging 2/3 of a mile burns 67 kilocalories, not calories.

posted by goethean


i could be wrong about this, but i'm almost positive that all measured calories are kilocalories. for whatever reason, it got shortened. can anyone confim this?
posted by amandaudoff at 9:54 AM on August 10, 2002


I can confirm that that is true. Packaging on food says something like this: kcals - 200.
posted by Summer at 10:26 AM on August 10, 2002


amandaudoff: No. Raising the temperature of water one degree is one calorie. Everything else is always in kilocalories.

First of all, calories are case-sensitive. There are calories and then there are Calories. Calories with a big "c" are the ones used to describe the amount of energy contained in foods. A calorie with a little "c" is defined as the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. What most people think of as a Calorie is actually a kilo-calorie: It takes one Calorie to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius. So when you drink a 140-Calorie can of cola, you are ingesting 140,000 calories. There is no cause for alarm, because the conversion applies across the board. When you burn 100 Calories jogging a mile, you are burning 100,000 calories.

almostcool: You've also got to consider that your body is technically about 75% water, so I'm a big fan of keeping everything flowing as cleanly as possible

That's not how it works. The water in all your cells doesn't drain and get replaced like that. If you drink lots you're going to pee out the exact same water an hour later.
posted by skallas at 10:27 AM on August 10, 2002


This article confirms it too. Food calories are kilocalories.
posted by ttrendel at 10:28 AM on August 10, 2002


Best drink I know: large glass of tap water, two large ice cubes, juice from half a lemon. Put that in your water pipe and smoke it, Coca-Cola.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 10:43 AM on August 10, 2002


that's right. i'd forgotten about the capitalization factor. so, since that's true, what relevance does this have?

One consideration: Warming a 16 oz glass of ice water to body temperature burns 17 calories; warming 64 oz burns 67 calories, roughly the amount burned by jogging 2/3 of a mile. These numbers are from lab conditions; actual numbers in a human system may be slightly different, but probably not by much.

even if they were the same calroie count, what effect would it have on the drinker? none that i can see...
posted by amandaudoff at 10:47 AM on August 10, 2002


I attempted to do the math and confirm our 64 ounces of ice water vs 2/3 mile jogging calorie/Calorie burning claim for myself...

I'm going to measure everything here in calories (because I believe that is the basic unit of measure. The whole kilocalorie debacle we have run into...I'll blame on lazy scientists and food packagers who don't like dealing with all the extra digits..."calories with a capital C" ... bah! Go back to fahrenheit if you want to sow confusion!).

I started off by accepting that running 2/3 of a mile burns 67000 calories. It seemed a little odd that running so far would only burn 67 calories. I had always wondered why our bodies were so amazingly efficient...but I certainly wasn't about to exert myself to check it out...

I remember from two years of chemistry classes in high school that 1 calorie = 1 milliliter of water x 1 degree celcius. I always figured that it took more than 2000 calries per day to keep my body temperature so high AND let me walk around. So thanks for helping me out there goethean and amandaudoff.

Anyway!

1 calorie = 1ml water X 1 degree celcius
64.00 ounces = 1892.67 milliliters

let's define "Ice Water" as water at 1 degree celcius (otherwise it would be ice)

body temperature = 37 degrees celcius

so we have to raise the temp of 1892.67 ml of water by 36 degrees celcius (37 - 1).

1892.67ml water X 36 degrees celcius = 68136.12 calories

That is just really cool...I'm going to drink a lot more ice water :)
posted by ruggles at 11:09 AM on August 10, 2002


Here is Cecil Adams' take on the subject.
posted by TedW at 11:30 AM on August 10, 2002


Maybe these people aren't conspiracy nuts after all.
posted by sciatica at 11:32 AM on August 10, 2002


And overdoses of water can cause water intoxication...

Man, I wish I knew about this when I was a teenager.
posted by Eamon at 11:38 AM on August 10, 2002


Not all water is equal. Straight water whatever you dont absorb right away is washed through. Food water is held longer to be used when needed. Thus a cup of food water is more (better) then a cup of liquid water. Food also has salts to help retain water and better regulate trips to bathroom. I believe its very possible to get more then enough liquids from food alone, although there isnt any reason to do so. My 80yo granmother drinks one cup of coffee a day for most of her life and thats the only liquid she drinks.
posted by stbalbach at 12:09 PM on August 10, 2002


The water in all your cells doesn't drain and get replaced like that. If you drink lots you're going to pee out the exact same water an hour later.

That's not physically possible: your bladder is filled by your kidneys, not your gastro-intestinal tract! The water in urine has been taken up into the bloodstream from the GI tract (mainly the small intestine, I think) and reclaimed from plasma by the kidneys, and has been extensively exchanged with cellular cytoplasm and extracellular fluid by the t ime it hits the porcelain.
posted by sennoma at 11:18 PM on August 10, 2002


This thread is mostly finished, but I have two words to throw into the discussion:

Kidney stones.

My father has dealt painfully with kidney stones in the past. The last time it happened, his doctor admonished him to drink more water. My parents ordered a water cooler and Dad now tries to drink plenty of water (with the occasional tea and soda) daily. End result: No stones in nearly a decade.

Maybe one doesn't need 64 oz. of water in a day, but it's a good, and achievable, guideline. Under normal conditions, you won't hurt yourself with a big glass of water, and you're probably doing your long-term health outlook a favor.
posted by werty at 6:42 AM on August 12, 2002


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