Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 24, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

PERSONAL HYDRATION....Let's turn to medical matters, shall we?

I've long been flabbergasted by the volume of liquid that most people drink. "Drink eight glasses a day!" our doctors recommend, for no apparent reason (I've asked) and we do. In fact, judging by the Bunyanesque size of fast food cups these days, most people consider eight glasses to be a lower limit.

And me? I could probably make it from morning through dinnertime on one glass of water and barely notice that I was thirsty. A couple of months ago I tried drinking a glass of water every hour (for reasons I won't go into) and almost exploded. I was peeing every 30 minutes.

So, since the eight-glasses-a-day rule seems to exist for no particular reason (I've checked), I pay no attention to it. I drink when I'm thirsty, and if my urine is a nice healthy color I figure I'm doing fine.

And today I got happy news. My friend Dr. Marc (PhD, that is, not MD) sent me word that the Institute of Medicine has undertaken some vast new research on this issue and confirmed my belief: most people "meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide." Hallelujah!

But wait there's more. It turns out that they also set some "general recommendations" for water consumption, and long story short, the midpoint of those recommendations for men is.....

100 ounces per day. That's over 12 cups per day. 50% more than the old-wives-tale version from our childhood.

What to think? I must be at about the 99th percentile of water requirements. Judging by these recommendations, I'm a human camel or something.

Kind of a drag, though. I finally find something I'm at the 99th percentile of, and it turns out to be personal hydration needs. That's just great. I'm sure there's loads of money in that....

FURTHER FUN FACT: In case you're interested, the Consumer Reports summary of the IOM study that Dr. Marc sent me says this about the old eight-glasses-a-day advice:

The origin of the eight-glasses-a-day rule is most likely government guidelines from the 1940s that recommended "1 milliliter of water for each calorie of food," or roughly 64 to 80 ounces per day. However, "water" referred to the total fluid intake from all beverages and food.

We get about 20% of our fluid from the food we eat, so this means that the actual recommendation was for about 6-8 cups a day.

Isn't that typical? The whole eight-glasses-a-day thing came from some prehistoric government study based on God-knows-what that's been handed down through the generations like the Dead Sea scrolls, and even at that everyone misunderstood it in the first place. It's practically a microcosm of all of human history, isn't it?

Kevin Drum 8:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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