A look at how much water we really need to drink per day

It has become a common sight in the last few years to see people not only carrying a handbag or a backpack when moving about and around, but also clutching bottled water. And I am not talking about trekking in the Sahara or Gobi desert, but walking around in cities! Do people believe they will keel over due to dehydration if they don’t sip water constantly?

tapwater by Steve Greenberg

© Steve Greenberg; image is copyrighted and posted here with artist’s permission

We are looking at a great commercial conspiracy: people have been brainwashed into believing that they must drink eight (large) glasses of water a day to remain healthy, and that is in addition to the food they are eating and any other liquids they might enjoy guzzling. The conglomerates who are selling the water that until quite recently has been freely available on our planet are making huge profits. Looking at the shelves displaying water in any alimentary shop or supermarket, the sheer variety (and prices) of drinking water is overwhelming! Add to that the different sized bottles, shelves upon shelves…which makes me also wonder how all those plastic bottles are being recycled, or are they? In Australia, the U.S.A. and in European countries where recycling has been drilled into the general public (who are also made to pay for it) tons of plastic bottles are allegedly being recycled, but hardly anywhere else on the globe. However, although Australians use about 1,3 million tons of plastic per year and they have a very good recycling system in place, only 46% of the waste is actually recycled. That means, more than half of their waste ends up in landfills with serious problems for the environment. But I regress.

All one needs to know about the science of drinking water is very simple, really. I usually drink water when I am thirsty. Sometimes, when I have been out in the sun for a long time or did exercises, I drink more than during other days, when I haven’t moved around much. When I am on a long distance flight, I can feel the need to drink more than usual and then do so. My body tells me. Doesn’t yours?

Are people so out of touch with their bodies that they require medical and government authorities to tell them how much water to drink and then follow such instructions slavishly?

While I grew up, I do not remember anybody telling me to drink water and how much – I just went to the tap and drank. Of course in those days tap water was clean and without added chemicals. So it is understandable that people nowadays buy bottled drinking water to avoid poisoning themselves. But is the ‘Spring Water’ they are buying really bottled at the source? Isn’t much of the water sold just processed through reverse osmosis which no doubt gets rid of pollutants and chemicals but can no longer be called spring water and is totally void of minerals? These are topics government health agencies should be looking into.

Our bodies also filter water from the food we eat, especially from vegetables and fruit, and even from caffeinated drinks, such as tea and coffee.  Dr Heinz Valtin, a respected emeritus professor at Dartmouth Medical School states, “The only time tea and coffee act as diuretics is if they are consumed by a person who has not had caffeine for at least a week previously. So if you regularly drink coffee, tea or caffeinated soft drinks, these will not act as diuretics and can be counted towards your daily intake.”

There doesn’t appear to be any clear-cut research that shows drinking lots of water is beneficial, yet the constant pressure to drink more is being hammered into the public. The Danone group for example, that peddles Volvic and Evian water at high prices worldwide, had David Graham, director of Danone’s Hydration for Health initiative announce: “Our view on how much water you should drink is in line with the European Food Safety Authority’s 2010 scientific opinion on water intake,” and that two liters of water a day is “the simplest and healthiest hydration advice you can give.” Now what kind of expertise is this? It is clever advertising, that’s all.

What we also ought to look at the clever phrasing of the call to drink more water – because it has been cunningly changed to ‘drink more bottled water’. According to the International Bottled Water Association, the US consumes more than 8 billion gallons of bottled water annually, up from 5 billion in 2001. Do your math.


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