Monday, September 12, 2005

The Doc Writes With Very Little Authority on The Subject of Water

I recently purchased a bottle from the University Bookstore. It is clear, orange, says University of Alberta on the front, and has a capacity of 1 liter (just over 32 ounces). I bought this bottle of water because I am a man who enjoys a cup of good coffee. Actually, I am a man who enjoys an cup of average coffee. To be realistic, I am a man who enjoys a pot of average coffee. I drink about a pot of coffee a day, and I like it. I also don't drink more than one or two glasses of water a day, which flaunts the well-known 8x8 rule (eight glasses of eight ounces per day). Since I drink so much coffee - a well-known diuretic, right? - people tell me I should drink even more water.

There's also a belief that drinking your 2 L helps you to lose weight, because if your kidneys aren't hydrated your liver does part of their job and doesn't metabolize enough of your stored fat. (Also: if you fill your stomach up with water, you can't eat as much.) I bought the bottle - more of a jug, actually - in order to actually drink my daily water requirement. Over the past seven hours of school, I have had my 8x8, or 2 liters, and people, I tell you: I am not built to drink that much water. My bladder can't take it.

That was going to be the entire post, but I took a brief stroll through Google so as to not sound like a simp about my new hydration system. I found some interesting facts, some of which I had read before, and some of which I had secretly suspected. First, nobody knows where the 8x8 rule came from. In an interview from Dartmouth Medical School, kidney specialist Dr. Heinz Valtin suggests that the statistic could come from a recommendation from the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council when they "recommended approximately '1 milliliter of water for each calorie of food,' which would amount to roughly two to two-and-a-half quarts per day (64 to 80 ounces)." Problem is, the next sentence says that "most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods," but it must be hard to read the next sentence in a report when you're just looking for a slogan.

According to Snopes, most of the facts about our need for water comes from a book called Your Body's Many Cries For Water, which was written by a doctor who a) had to self-publish the book for fear that his findings "be suppressed", and b) performed no research on the topic. The widely-held belief that we in North America are walking around dehydrated is, apparently, bogus (taken second-hand from Snopes again): "Doctors from a wide range of specialties agree: By all evidence, we are a well-hydrated nation. Furthermore, they say, the current infatuation with water as an all-purpose health potion — tonic for the skin, key to weight loss — is a blend of fashion and fiction and very little science." (My emphasis added.) Plus, some doctors have even suggested that some of us are drinking too much water, and are pissing away precious electrolytes. To quote Lewis Black: "I can tell by your silence, some of you are fucked, aren't you?"

Also (and this I did know): the diuretic effects of caffeine have been greatly exaggerated. About 2/3 of the water content of caffeinated drinks - tea, coffee, cola, Mountain Dew, Red Bull - is retained by most drinkers, and even more is retained by people who drink a lot of caffeinated beverages. Like, say, someone who drinks a pot of coffee a day. I'm not saying that that's a healthy amount of caffeine, which (according to various reports) can lead to insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbance, twitching muscles, heart palpitations, and in high quantities, delirium and seizures. But if I don't need my 8x8 of water, and I can get adequate hydration from my pot of coffee, then...I guess I was pretty stupid to look this all up after I bought my bottle, huh. Still: it sure is nice and orange.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

HA! Thanks DOC! Take that all you people who tell me to drink less coffee and more water! WOOT!

Seriously, I bring a liter of water with me 'cause I live in a scorching desert, but if I drink even a quarter of it, I must run to the bathroom.

Down with the 8x8 tyranny!