Most diets and health tips contradict each other, but one mantra that is repeated constantly is the necessity to drink two litres of water a day. Failing to do this can apparently cause untold problems. Just a few of the recent claims in women’s magazines suggest that it can cause the storage of toxins in un-flushed kidneys, prematurely ageing skin and an increase in the body’s fat storage. Not only that, but your liver is likely to be struggling and your bowels are in serious need of cleansing.
The body apparently does use two litres of water on an average day. However, the NHS website acknowledges that around half of this is taken in by our food intake and some is made up through chemical reactions which naturally occur in the body. The rest can be topped up with soft drinks, fruit juices and yes, tea and coffee.
So, going by the NHS information, no healthy adult in the western world is likely to be dehydrated. Which is a good thing, as according to Cosmopolitan’s website “Dehydration can contribute to additional fat storage due to reduced metabolism”. It recommends drinking a litre and a half of water a day, starting with 500ml and gradually building up. Presumably you need to get used to the frequent visits to the loo this will inevitably cause. It also says that “Diet coke and tea do not contribute to water intake” which is odd as their main ingredient is, well water!
Essentials online says that pricey face creams are “Not necessary! The best beauty aid is water – it hydrates your skin and keeps it smooth.” Yet there’s no evidence that this is true for a healthy adult. It may be true if you were seriously dehydrated; perhaps living on nothing but ryvitas with no liquids for several days.
The two litres a day advice may be a mistranslation from guidelines by the American Food and Nutrition Board in 1945. It stated that the average person needs a milliliter of water for each calorie of food consumed. For a typical, healthy woman this would be two litres a day. However, it didn’t say that this had to be consumed in water alone and even stated that most of this amount could be obtained from prepared food.
My favourite water health claim this month goes to Zest magazine. It recommends drinking water with the juice of a lemon. This water, (which should be mineral or osmosis-filtered, although there is no evidence that this is better than tap water), will flush out your toxins. This is despite the fact that your liver and kidneys are capable of doing this without help. It goes on to make the claim that lemon water is anti-scorbutic. Sounds serious and scientific, so I Iooked it up in a dictionary and discovered that anti-scorbutic relates specifically to something which prevents scurvy. Nobody can argue that lemons prevent scurvy, but I’m less worried about getting scurvy than I am about the possibility of being dehydrated, or having dirty bowels and I’m not losing sleep over either of those.
The idea that just drinking large amounts of water can improve our health and make us look better is attractive. After all, it’s easier than cutting down on fat, getting our five a day and exercising regularly. However, there is no evidence for any of this.