Only drink water when thirsty, study suggests

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We have learned from childhood that we should drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Our body consists of 60% water, and we frequently lose it either via urine or sweat. So, we were recommended to drink at least 2 liters of 8 glasses of water a day. But many people found it difficult to do. According to a new study, we should drink water only when we are thirsty.

Here, an obvious question arises: then how much an amount of water should we drink a day?

Although there is no scientific proof that pinpoints consume eight glasses of water 2 liters a day, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), women should drink water of around 2.2 liters of total beverages daily (approximately 9 cups). In contrast, men should consume about 3 liters of total beverages daily (around 13 cups).

However, this new research suggests that we should only drink water when we are thirsty. Scientists concluded this after discovering a mechanism that makes drinking excess water challenging.

Scientists enrolled several people and asked them to drink large amounts of water immediately after exercise when they were thirsty. Later on, the next day, they asked participants to drink water when they were not thirsty.

After each condition, scientists asked them to rate how difficult it was to swallow water. Scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on each participant. It allows them to measure using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on each participant.

They found that some regions of the brain’s right prefrontal cortex showed significantly higher activity when participants tried to swallow the water. It suggests that this brain region cancels the swallowing inhibition, allowing excess water consumption.

Michael Farrell said, “Here, for the first time, we found effort-full swallowing after drinking excess water, which meant they were having to overcome some sort of resistance. This was compatible with our notion that the swallowing reflex becomes inhibited once enough water has been drunk.”

Scientists then worry that drinking too much water can cause significant harm. It may lead to hyponatremia. For instance, blood sodium level gets low.

Farell said, “There were cases when athletes in marathons told to load up with water and died. In certain circumstances, because they slavishly followed these recommendations and drank far in excess of need.”

“If we just do what our body demands us to we’ll probably get it right. So, just drink according to thirst rather than an elaborate schedule,” he added.

Researchers’ findings suggest that listening to the body’s needs may help us improve our water intake.

Journal Reference

  1. Saker, P., Farrell, M. J., Egan, G. F., McKinley, M. J., & Denton, D. A. (2016). Overdrinking, swallowing inhibition, and regional brain responses prior to swallowing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(43), 12274-12279. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1613929113

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