Try this experiment. Finish the sentence, "Water is. . . " What do you come up with? I’m a bit embarassed to admit that my first answer was “vitality.” I don’t think I generally use the word “vitality” in normal speech or even writing because it’s one of those words that doesn’t have much actual meaning (a dictionary double-check confims it means “not dead”). The word’s emptiness (or at least vagueness) makes it a great word for advertising and, presumably, that’s how it wound up in my own personal signification web for water. Water is life; you need it so, so hard. You should be drinking it constantly, really. If you are not drinking water constantly — and having it in your possession, of course — you will most likely die horribly (and/or be ugly and/or unfit).
Meanwhile, back in the real world, researchers at
New Zealand’s Melbourne, Australia’s La Trobe University argue in a new editorial in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health that we as first-world humans are actually drinking too much water. And this has everything to do with Big Water, the bottled water industry that has succeeded in making filtered tap water a commodity more expensive than gasoline.
Most of us understand that we should drink eight glasses of water a day. This is the minimum requirement for good health generally pushed upon us by public health organizations, water-sellers, and most anyone interested in water except for people that actually study water and health. The editorial points out that the eight glasses a day figure is not actually based on any real science, but is a vestige of 19th century alternative medicine (water as cure-all, or hydropathy). There is an actual scientific figure for how much a human should drink in a day to remain hydrated; it’s called the Adequate Intank (AI). It is this: 1.01 mL/kcal to 1.05 mL/kcal depending on age and gender. Figure a diet of around 2,000 calories, and you’re at 2 liters or so. A study done in Australia found that men were averaging about 3.6 liters a day.
If you are not drinking water constantly — and having it in your possession, of course — you will most likely die horribly.
The truth smudging being done is less so in the total amount of water needing to be consumed than the idea that water just comes in the form of plain water, that required water intake means drinking that amount of plain water. We actually get a ton of water from food too; and we get water from everything we drink. (Hopefully you’re not drinking too much liquid mercury.) So, you don’t need to drink two liters of plain water everyday; that’s just how much needs to get into your body total, somehow. And there are a lot of ways that can happen. Coffee counts even — its dehydrating superpower is wildly overblown.
“Thirty years ago you didn’t see a plastic water bottle anywhere, now they appear as fashion accessories,” says the editorial’s author, Spero Tsindos. We’re healthier as humans in a whole lot of ways — kicking our collective cigarette addiction (mostly) was a big one — but drinking tons of water from landfill-bound plastic bottles hasn’t “cured” us of any species-dooming mass dehydration. Nor has it cured us of soda — at least the last time I left the house or turned on any variety of media, it’s clear that soda is doing A-OK. (Factor in that bottled water is being sold often by the same people that make soda, and soda is doing really good.)
The story gets a bit worse for water fiends. Trying to consume your daily water solely as plain ol’ water probably means that you aren’t actually getting enough of that water in terms of your body’s needs. The editorial explains, “If you realise that you have yet to drink the requisite 2 litres and drink a large quantity within a short time, this will likely mean the water you drink will not reach the extracellular space, where it is needed, and as such has no real effect on hydration; all it does is dilute the urine.” So, peeing a lot doesn’t actually mean you’re hydrated; it just means that you’ve consumed water that your body can’t use at the time.
All in all, it’s just another giant industry distorting science to sell you things you don’t need. Let’s just save coconut water for another day.
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