Can insufficient water intake make you sick? Dan Negoianu and Stanley Goldfarb, writing in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (that’s the study of kidney diseases, folks) say we’ll never know:
Only large and expensive randomized trials could settle these questions definitively. Given that water cannot be patented, such trials seem unlikely.
How droll. But I’m sure someone is working on this.
Actually, the point of N&G’s piece was to knock down — once again — the myth that we should all drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (the “8×8″ myth). Their conclusion: for normal, healthy people, there’s really no evidence one way or the other that doing this has any health benefits. It doesn’t clear your kidneys of toxins, it doesn’t improve organ function, it doesn’t help you lose weight, it doesn’t prevent headaches, and it doesn’t improve your skin tone. On the other hand, it doesn’t do any harm, either. If you’re thirsty, drink some water. If you aren’t, don’t bother.
Anyway, I’m sure they’re spitting into the wind here. The 8×8 myth gets debunked approximately once a year and no one ever listens. However, I’ll add two comments anyway. First, N&G say this about the origin of the 8×8 myth:
In his exceedingly thorough review of this subject, [Heinz] Valtin reached the following conclusion: Nobody really knows.
Not true! In fact, Valtin (here) found a pretty likely source for it, which I summarized like this a few years ago: “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.” You may click the link for a more sober assessment.
Second, remember a few weeks ago I noted that a study about antidepressants got wide play in UK daily newspapers but not in the U.S.? Guess what? Same deal this time. N&G got a bit of pickup on TV stations, specialty sites, and a couple of wire services, but as near as I can tell not a single U.S. daily newspaper bothered with it. But in the UK, it got picked up by the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Mirror, and the Scotsman.
What’s the deal here? Are British newspapers just gaga for pop medical news, and American newspapers aren’t? It sure seems as though Americans are gaga for pop medical news, so why wouldn’t our newspapers be too? Very odd.