Wait, we don’t need 8 glasses of water a day?
We’ve all heard it: To stay hydrated and healthy, drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Whether you hit that magic number on a daily basis or not, chances are it’s something you think about from time to time, especially in the summer heat. It’s just the rule, one we’ve been told since we were kids! But as it turns out, there might not be too much science backing up the big push for more and more water.
In a research heavy op-ed for the New York Times Upshot blog, Indiana University School of Medicine professor Aaron E. Carroll is ready to put the myth of drinking eight glasses a day to rest. He has the science on his side, too, although as he points out, past efforts to get the public to understand where that “rule” comes from have fallen on deaf ears.
Back in 2007, Carroll was the co-author on a paper that looked at health myths. One at the top of the list was the suggested amount of water people should drink, and it got quite a bit of attention. Two years later the same team published a book on health myths, and once again water intake was included. As outlets like The Daily Mail and Newsweek reported, their findings pointed to a 1945 health standard that encouraged people to get eight glasses of water per day . . . but included the note that “most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” Somewhere along the line that caveat was dropped, and instead the eight glasses of water we’re supposed to drink became in addition to water we get from food or other beverages.
But Carroll doesn’t just stop there, because he’s heard all the claims made about drinking a lot of water. He points out that, “there’s no real scientific proof that, for otherwise healthy people, drinking extra water has any health benefits.” Yup — although there is some indication that your skin and health could be better if you drink a lot of water, scientists have yet to prove causation. The article is packed with studies, research, and statistics, all of which make a strong case that eight glasses of water a day aren’t really necessary.
So how much water should we be drinking? Carroll says to listen to your body, which will signal to us that we should drink before we become dehydrated. Of course, you know your body best, so doing what feels best is a good way to go, and water is by far a better option than soda or other sugary beverages. But don’t fret if you don’t hit eight glasses of water per day. As it turns out, that’s not a magic number after all.
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