Water they talking about?

You see it almost everywhere - the water bottle. Even children are encouraged and allowed to have a water bottle on their school desk.

  • Apr. 16, 2008 4:00 p.m.

You see it almost everywhere – the water bottle. Even children are encouraged and allowed to have a water bottle on their school desk. Every health column you see admonishes you to ‘drink lots of water – six to eight glasses a day’ or the common ‘8 x 8’. But is there any scientific evidence for this advice?

According to at least one research group – perhaps the only one that has asked this question – there is none. In the American Journal of Physiology, Dr. Heinz Valtin, of the Department of Physiology, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, New Hampshire published an article entitled “Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.” Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 x8”?

His answer is ‘no’.

As we continue to look at our world and consider ways of ‘saving the planet’, let’s also look at our water consumption and use.

When did this advice first hit the scene? As far as I can see it became widespread when the large companies like Pepsi, Coke and others got in the game of bottled-water. Undoubtedly their public relations departments cannily infiltrated the world of health and nutritionists. Thus the scientific basis can be found by following the money.

And what a large pile of money it is. Some anti-bottled water activists state that bottled water can cost 10,000 times the cost of the water inside – and furthermore, it takes seven bottles of water (in the processing of the plastic bottle and recycling) to make just one bottle of water.

This type of information was so shocking to the United Church that last year they recommended that their followers abandon the use of bottled water entirely and only use tap water.

Certainly in some parts of the world and under certain conditions here (i.e. a boil water advisory), bottled water can be the only source of relatively safe drinking water. But again it is only ‘relatively safe’. It turns out there are no standards regarding the quality of bottled water – some of what is sold as ‘pure’ water is just tap water bottled in one place and shipped to another. In most of North American, tap water is a much healthier choice.

So if you’ve been trying to force back your 8 x 8 and find you can’t really do it, or you are spending way more time in the bathroom, stop. Your body is a self-regulating mechanism that does not require an additional six to eight glasses of water a day if you are living in temperate climate and a sedentary life. You will get enough fluid through all the foods and other drinks you consume as noted by nutritionist Dr. Stare:

How much water each day? This is usually well regulated by various physiological mechanisms, but for the average adult, somewhere around six to eight glasses per 24 hours and this can be in the form of coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, beer, etc. Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of water. Stare, FJ, and McWilliams M. Nutrition for Good Health. Fullerton, CA: Plycon, 1974, p. 175

Dr.Valtin who authored the article question “8×8” also notes there are some potentially serious side-effects of drinking too much water including water intoxication, loss of salt, exposure to pollutants, inconvenience and expense – not to mention the additional flushing of the toilet to wash away only urine (a global waste of in calculable water resources!)

Certainly if you are an athlete, working hard physical labour, on certain medications or diets where additional water intake is required, or living in the tropics, this moderate advice is not for you.

When Pocahontas made her trip back to England, several of her tribesmen went with her – only to die on the voyage as they refused to use the poop deck to relieve themselves in the vast ocean.

Water was too sacred to them. If only it were sacred to us.

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