8 Glasses Of Water Daily. Really?

One of the most recurring health wisdoms is that you need to drink 8 glasses of water daily.

Also known as the 8×8 (8 glasses of 8 ounces each) or 2 Litres of water daily.

I seems to make sense to so many people, including bottled water sellers, that for many people it is pure common sense.

From my medical training I already liked to tell people who tried to convince me to have my 8 daily glasses, the stories of people who died from “water intoxication” including a spate of deaths in my own state from people trying to avoid the dehydration when they took the party drug, Ecstasy.

On a more personal level, this idea of 8 daily glasses of water ended for me when I watched the “Lawrence of Arabia” movie and watched an Englishman train himself to drink water like a desert-living Arab.

Of course this was a movie, not science.

But often movies are better than science for personal change anyway.

Still the idea of 8 glasses of water on a daily basis has been put to the test by researchers, and in summary – the idea doesn’t hold water.

The most complete study was this year in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The best thing about this study was that they specifically addressed the 4 key health benefits proposed for 8 glasses of water daily: that it leads to more toxin excretion, improves skin tone, makes one less hungry and reduces headache frequency.

All these had no scientific evidence of benefit, and the closest was the question of affecting appetite where two studies disagreed with each other, and the researchers considered it was worth looking into further.

Of course this all begs one question.

Where did this daily water myth come from?

An excellent review paper in 2002 in the American Journal of Physiology suggested a possible source. Professor Valtin proposed that…

…the notion may have started when the [US] Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council 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). Although in its next sentence, the Board stated “most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods,” that last sentence may have been missed, so that the recommendation was erroneously interpreted as how much water one should drink each day.

Myth busted. There is no scientific basis for a recommendation of 8 glasses of water a day.

So what’s my advice?

I say decide for yourself.

[What do you expect on a self help blog, really.]

More specifically, figure out how to know when you are thirsty. The signals for wanting water in are as clear-cut as the ones for wanting water out. We just seem to get better trained on the full bladder than we do on the parched lips.

Then have what ever you feel like; water, other fluids (even caffeinated ones), or foods that have water in them.

If adding a bit more water than that helps you with headaches, skin tone, appetite etc go for it.If it doesn’t then don’t.

-Dr Martin Russell

7 thoughts on “8 Glasses Of Water Daily. Really?”

  1. Life is all about choices isn’t it? as far as where did the 8 X 8 concept come from — probably the same place as an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

    Great post!!

  2. As a runner, I know I drink more after exercise in the cooler winters than in the hotter summers. Duh!

    How much to drink? I drink to quench my thirst at the time and then let clear urine colour tell me when the internal plumbing has sorted things out ๐Ÿ™‚

    Maybe Martin has a medical comment on that!

    mark mcclure

  3. Apple a day? I should look into that one too. Good idea.

    Mark, the 2002 link I gave says this…

    “Dark Urine Means Dehydration. At normal urinary volume and color, the concentration of the blood is within the normal range and nowhere near the values that are seen in meaningful dehydration. Therefore, the warning that dark urine reflects dehydration is alarmist and false in most instances.”

    So much for he medical comment.

    My personal comment is that watching your urine is a fun pastime. I’m just not sure whether it adds any information that you don’t already have more accurately and immediately from your sense of thirst. Might be a good back-up check for people out of touch with their bodies perhaps ie not you Mark ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Thats a great post. You know i had a mom who always badgered me to take 8 glasses of water daily. I did it to please her even though i didnt think it was neccessary.

    What i do now is only take it when i’m thirsty. I dont even take water immediately after meals.

    What do you think about that?

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I always thought that 8 glasses are too much. just drink only when you are thirsty.

  6. Ronald

    When our bodies run low on food it would make sense that they run low on water at about the same time, but before, during or after is fine if it works for you and your thirst.

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