Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Contrary to popular wisdom there is a dearth of scientific evidence to support the health benefits regularly touted for drinking huge amounts of water. And by strange coincidence, a lot of research that does support it has been sponsored by companies who market the bottled version.

In fact drinking more water than your kidneys can filter dilutes your blood, reversing important osmotic processes, eventually putting you into a coma. Jennifer Strange (yes, really) had taken part in a "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" (again, yes, really) game on an American radio station. Afterwards she reportedly said her head was hurting and went home, where she was later found dead. Initial tests have shown her death is consistent with water intoxication.

However, a healthy adult's kidneys can comfortably handle about a litre of liquid per hour, so this is unlikely to be a problem for most people. In fact, many people could do with introducing more liquid into their diet.

Not ingesting enough liquid prevents the liver and kidneys from functioning properly, resulting in a wide range of symptoms, including:

Thirst (yes, really), restless or irritable behaviour, decreased skin turgor, dry mucous membranes and sunken eyes... moving on to, constipation, flushed face, dry, warm skin, dizziness, weakness, cramping in the arms and legs, lack of concentration, headaches, dry mouth and tongue with thick saliva.

How much liquid we need varies, depending on body size, activity levels and environmental conditions, but 1.5 litres a day is a basic yardstick. This doesn't all have to come from water, it can come from our food (especially fruit), soft drinks, tea, coffee and even (hurray!) alcoholic drinks. Of course, caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics, so the liquid will be expelled quicker, but liquid is liquid, your body will extract what it needs.

Any liquid that enters our stomach is absorbed only after it has been warmed to body temperature. So if you need hydrating quickly, warm drinks are actually better than cold (yes mum, tea is an excellent example).

If you can bear the taste of green tea, there is growing evidence that it provides a host of health benefits. I've tried to like it, really I have, but personally I'm going to have to find other routes to whatever advantages it offers!

There are benefits to drinking plenty of water:

1. It is calorie, alcohol, caffeine and acid-free.

2. It contains a wide range of beneficial minerals.

3. It keeps your stomach feeling 'full', helping avoid the urge to 'snack'.

4. It improves the efficiency of your digestive system.

5. It improves concentration levels.

6. It stabilises mood swings.

The colour of your urine acts as a good gauge of whether you are properly hydrated. Clear to straw-coloured is fine. Darker than this means you probably need more liquid. Also, frequency of 'loo-breaks' will soon tell you if you're drinking too much liquid. Once every couple of hours is fine, more than this means you're probably drinking too much. Of course, caffeine and alcohol will increase the 'loo-break' factor!

In Europe, standards for tap water are very high. So water (from the cold water tap) should be fine. However, my personal experience has been that some tap water tastes atrocious. Filtering the water can help, but make sure the filters don't remove minerals from the water.

My favourite bottled water is Pellegrino, I think it tastes great (my kidz HATE it, which is another bonus cos they don't steal it!), it has a balanced mineral content, and I've found that drinking it with my evening meal (instead of wine) means that I enjoy the taste of the food more, with the added benefit that my hunger isn't alcohol-assisted (yes, alcohol increases hunger by lowering blood-sugar levels).

I then have a glass (or three) of my favourite inky red as a dessert. Cheers!