Wednesday, April 30, 2008

hydration schmydration

I haven't seen this story hit the front page yet but I was amused and bemused to read the latest health update in the NYT earlier this week. The short item was titled Perceptions: Go Ahead, Put the Water Bottle Down.

Turns out, according to Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and a team of researchers, there is not now, nor has there ever been, scientific evidence that proves the health benefits of drinking eight glasses of water every day. Even that mostly benign little claim is unsubstantiated according to the men who searched for the facts.

I don't know about you, but I have spent my entire life listening to everyone from dietitians to exercise gurus to my mother opine about the benefits of drinking water - lots of it. And now according to Dr. Goldfarb and his colleagues, none of the claims that are made about the curative and restorative benefits of drinking water - like relief from headaches, removing "toxins," keeping various organs of ours in top shape and reducing the risk of conditions like hypertension - have even been scientifically proven.

Could drinking water possibly help people control their weight and decrease appetite? Yes. Well - possibly, yes. More study and research is necessary before the evidence points to one answer or another.

And the truth is, it's doubtful that water is literally harmful to us so in that sense, it's a good beverage. I'd rather fill up on water than empty calories (spoken like a woman who has been dieting since the age of 17.)

I love the conclusion Dr. Goldfarb offers us in the Times article. Since, under normal conditions - not during a grueling trek through the Sahara, not during a bout of excessive dry mouth after surgery, not with the onset of a diabetic condition, not even after one awakens from a beer-soaked frat party the previous night not that I've even experienced that - he and his colleagues doubt any real health benefit from drinking massive quantities of water. "I want to relieve people of schlepping around a water bottle all day long."

I love that!

Carrying around water bottles has become something of a label these days. It's like listening to NPR or voting for Ralph Nader. You're somehow more enlightened and feel smarter than everyone else if you carry your own water - to every meeting, on every walk, in every moment of your life you have access to ready hydration. I've even seen people pull out a bottle of water and drink it in church, for god's sake. (Well, for their own sake, actually.) Unless there is some kind of unique medical condition here, can you really not live for sixty minutes without a drink of water?

Please. Enjoy your water. Drink up. Just stop making it into a political / superior statement about how smart you are since - according to the research - it provides no measurable health benefit.

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