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Water – too much of a good thing?
Every living thing needs water. The human body is two thirds water and logically we need water every day in order to survive.
And so, on the basis that if a little is good for you a lot must be really good for you we have become a nation of water drinkers.
The addiction to water – which is more social than physiological – has become such that we willingly lug around large plastic bottles all day like portable fountains of youth designed to stave off dry skin, constipation, fatigue, and even the common cold. The designer water bottle has become a badge for the smart set that lets the whole world know just how healthy they are.
There is even an acknowledged water drinker’s bible, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water written by Dr Fereydoon Batmanghelidj in which the premise is put forward: “you are not sick, you are thirsty.” According to the Iranian born doctor painful joints, obesity, depression, migraines and more can all be cured if we just drink enough water.
While most humans can live for weeks without food, it is true that we would die in a matter of days without water. Adequate hydration is necessary for nearly every bodily function including digestion, transportation and absorption of nutrients, circulation, excretion, building tissue and maintaining body temperature.
While water can’t breakdown fat, it can help to remove the toxic by-products created by the breakdown of fatty tissue. Keeping hydrated can ward off constipation, there is even evidence that keeping adequately hydrated (around 5 glasses a day) can cut the risk of colon cancer in half.
But while dehydration can be deadly, there is scant evidence that drinking extra water can be beneficial. Indeed, in a recent editorial the British Medical Journal Dr Margaret McCartney suggested that, as a nation, we have become “waterlogged”.
She made a scathing attack on the bottled water companies who continue to promote so-called ‘healthy hydration’ without ever defining what that actually means. Dr McCartney’s robust critique was not exactly news. Many scientists, nutritionists and doctors have known for years that here is no real scientific basis for our water addiction.
And, of course, it is possible to drink too much water. Consider this the next time someone tells you something is “as safe as water”: drinking 13 litres in a day can dilute the concentration of sodium in your blood and may cause seizures and impaired thinking.
Drinking 7 litres of water in a half an hour would probably kill you. Many of the deaths associated with the use of Ecstasy have come as a direct result of people becoming paranoid about dehydration and over-hydrating themselves in a short period of time.