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'Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day' -- Really?

Hanover, NH -- It has become accepted wisdom: "Drink at least eight glasses of water a day!" Not necessarily, says a DMS physician Heinz Valtin, MD. The universal advice that has made guzzling water a national pastime is more urban myth than medical dogma and appears to lack scientific proof, he found.

In an invited review published online by the American Journal of Physiology August 8, Valtin, professor emeritus of physiology at Dartmouth Medical School, reports no supporting evidence to back this popular counsel, commonly known as "8 x 8" (for eight, eight-ounce glasses). The review will also appear in a later issue of the journal.

Valtin, a kidney specialist and author of two widely used textbooks on the kidney and water balance, sought to find the origin of this dictum and to examine the scientific evidence, if any, that might support it. He observes that we see the exhortation everywhere: from health writers, nutritionists, even physicians. Valtin doubts its validity. Indeed, he finds it, "difficult to believe that evolution left us with a chronic water deficit that needs to be compensated by forcing a high fluid intake."

The 8 x 8 rule is slavishly followed. Everywhere, people carry bottles of water, constantly sipping from them; it is acceptable to drink water anywhere, anytime. A pamphlet distributed at one southern California university even counsels its students to "carry a water bottle with you. Drink often while sitting in class..."

How did the obsession start? Is there any scientific evidence that supports the recommendation? Does the habit promote good health? Might it be harmful?

Valtin thinks the notion may have started when the 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 qua
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Contact: DMS Communications Office
dms.communications@dartmouth.edu
603-650-1492
Dartmouth Medical School
8-Aug-2002


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