The Hydration Myth: Do I Really Need Eight Glasses of Water A Day?


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For more than 70 years, notable health sites, clever advertisers, and well-meaning parents have lulled the population into believing that we ought to be drinking 8 glasses of water a day. I’m sure as a kid, you heard that drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water a day was the best way to avoid becoming dehydrated, especially if you grew up living in the Phoenix heat. Don’t get us wrong, our AllKids’ East Valley pediatric urgent care providers highly recommend drinking water daily. It’s the best fluid for you. But did you know that the argument for drinking 8 glasses of water each day is scientifically unfounded?

Society seems to have readily accepted the belief that drinking 64 ounces of water on a daily basis is the proper thing to do (even if we hardly measure up), much like our understanding that sleeping 8 hours each night is the optimal amount. The difference is that the sleep cycle has been studied in great depth and many conclusive studies have shown that on average, the human body functions best when it receives 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. However, there is no conclusive evidence suggesting that drinking 64 ounces of water is any better or worse than drinking 4 or 12 glasses a day.

We know the amazing health benefits of water. Not only is water necessary for survival, but it also flushes out toxins and keeps our bodies functioning properly. Plus, it’s zero calories! Water consumption is important, but even if you’ve spent all day in the Arizona sun, you’re probably not as dehydrated as you think you are. In fact, the human body is made to signal thirst long before you ever reach critical dehydration status. Clinical dehydration normally occurs when a person loses more fluid than they intake due to their inability to drink, a prolonged illness, or excessive sweating.

As Aaron E Carrol, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, explains in his recent article, this 8-glasses-a-day myth most likely stems from the National Food and Nutrition Board’s recommendation in 1945 which said, “A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 liters daily in most instances.” What most people realize is that the publication also said this: “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”

Ignoring that last sentence has made a huge impact on society. Countless articles claim that one-half to two-thirds of the population are not drinking as much water as they need. However, many of the studies cited are basing their diagnosis on measurements of urinie osmality, or the amount of water present in urine samples, which is not an accurate indicator of dehydration. One of these studies was even funded by Nestlé Waters, a major water distributor in America. Major media outlets have been proclaiming for years that dehydration is rampant in the U.S. and water bottle sales have continued to increase accordingly. While this is a clever marketing angle, it has led to thousands of humans unnecessarily carrying around giant reusable water bottles in order to fill a daily quota.

As the government publication from 1945 suggests, most of us get plenty of water each day from the nutritious foods we eat. So don’t worry so much if your child comes home from school with an untouched water bottle. As long as they get a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, kids will still get the amount of water they really need to succeed.

AllKids Urgent Care is the leading Arizona pediatric urgent care East Valley families trust. Services include x-rays, sports physicals, burn and wound care, illness diagnosis and treatment. Our Mesa and Gilbert locations are open from 12 – 10 pm, every day including holidays. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on kids health and activities the whole family can enjoy. All Kids Deserve the Best.

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