by Kim Pederson…….

I was thinking of a Bo Diddly song just now, “Who Do You Love?” (written by Diddly as Ellas McDaniel). If you don’t know Bo’s version, you might remember the one done by George Thorogood or even the “homage” of sorts done by YG/Drake. The song title came into my head a little differently this time: “Who Do You Trust?” instead of “Love.” (“Believe” would have been a more accurate word than “Trust” but it doesn’t scan.)

These mental gyrations occurred in conjunction with reading a New York Times piece called “No, You Do Not Have to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day.” The article, written by Aaron Carroll, begins this way: “If there is one health myth that will not die, it is this: You should drink eight glasses of water a day. It’s just not true. There is no science behind it.”

"No, really. I've already taken my water quota. No more, please!"*
“No, really. I’ve already taken my water quota. No more, please!”*

Carroll traces our hydration mania to a 1945 study that said people need 2.5 liters of water per day. He also notes that most everyone forgot to read the fine print that came after this statement: “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” He then goes on to detail how there is no scientific evidence to support all the health benefit claims for drinking “extra” water.

Carroll leaves out the dangers of overhydration in his article. This condition, also known as water intoxication or hyponatremia, throws off your body’s electrolyte balance, which in turn can cause cells to swell up. In the worst instances, this can increase intracranial pressure, interrupt blood flow to the brain, and bring on seizures, coma, and even death. It happens rarely unless it’s done on purpose as a stupid frat prank or as torture (see the water cure, one of the US military’s less glorious practices) but it’s still a danger.

So why do we think we need to drink 8 glasses of water of day? Because we (most of us anyway) read the headlines, listen to the sound bytes, and take action without investigating the veracity of those headlines and sound bytes. We leap, as the saying goes, without looking. Even Michelle Obama got sucked in with her “Drink Up!” campaign.

Since our planet is getting thirstier and thirstier in terms of available potable water, maybe we should work harder to get this message out there. We should drink (and consequently flush) much less often. If I believe Carroll’s view on this, that would be the logical next step. But who do we believe? Carroll? Or the NPR report of a Harvard study that says the opposite? Maybe the best approach is that of Fox Mulder: “Trust no one.” That means we would just have to rely on our bodies to tell us when we should have a tall, cool glass of agua. Come to think of it, isn’t that how it’s supposed to work anyway?

* “Cholera rehydration nurses” by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span  Musings

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