It seems that everywhere you look fitness magazines, health gurus and beauty experts are repeating the advice that to stay healthy and maintain a glowing complexion it is necessary to drink eight glasses of water per day. Yet just because a statement is repeated, does not make it true. The truth is that science does not back the assumption that drinking large quantities of pure water is essential to healthy living and good skin.
So where did the myth originate?
Some people have blamed market forces – the world spends over $100 billion on bottled water each year. However, it is true that average, your body loses 1 to 1.5 litres of water a day. If someone is undertaking a lot of activity, and therefore breathing and sweating more, they would lose more. Clearly, this water needs to be replaced – even a 2 per cent loss in the water surrounding our cells can result in a 20 per cent drop in energy levels.
Where the confusion seems to have arisen is in the assumption that to maintain hydration only pure water will do. This is simply not true – the body replenishes lost water from both food and drink.
Consider the matter logically – the body absorbs water from the large intestine, by which point even the ‘purest’ glass of water will have passed the stomach and small intestine, and intermingled with stomach acid, enzymes, bile and partially digested food. To think that when it comes to water absorption the large intestine will treat a fruit cordial, bowl of broth or a cup of tea somehow differently to how it treats a glass of water is to misunderstand the digestive process.
But Surely Drinking More is Better?
Not necessarily. The body works very hard to maintain correct hydration, and excess water needs to excreted. The kidneys rely on a certain supply of water in order to flush out toxins, but there is evidence that constantly overloading the kidneys with excess water simply places them under unnecessary stress with no added benefit. (See: Drinking two liters of water per day may not benefit most individuals and even could be harmful, investigators say)
In addition it is is possible to over-hydrate – if excessive water is consumed, mental confusion and even death can occur (See: Strange But True – Drinking Too Much Can Kill ). Water intoxication is, however, rare – your body is extremely efficient at telling you when it is thirsty and when it has had enough.
So How Much Should I be Drinking?
It is important to stay hydrated, on that everyone agrees. Water remains the beverage of choice – it is inexpensive, calorie free, has no artificial additives and is easily available. However the bottom line is that it is not necessary to obsess about drinking 8 glasses of water a day. Tea, diluted cordials, broth and even fruit and vegetable all help replenish the body’s water supplies. Contrary to popular belief even caffeinated drinks count, for a recent study showed that caffeine does not cause dehydration (Grandjean, 2000) conducted. Let your body guide you – if you are thirsty then drink.
The Mayo Clinic lays out the following useful guidelines:
Generally if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 litres (6.3 cups) or more of colourless or light yellow urine a day, your fluid intake is probably adequate. If you’re concerned about your fluid intake or have health issues, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you determine the amount of water that’s right for you.
To ward off dehydration and make sure your body has the fluids it needs, make water your beverage of choice. It’s also a good idea to:
- Drink a glass of water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal.
- Drink water before, during and after exercise.
Maintaining Hydrated Skin
Proper body hydration does help maintain the skin. However, as discussed above, drinking more water than the body actually requires has no benefit. Whilst glugging down copious amounts of water are unlikely to improve the skin, there is a dietary change that has been shown to improve skin hydration. Water is held in the skin by hyaluronic acid, and studies have shown that taking hyaluronic acid as nutritional supplements can improve skin moisture levels and skin smoothness (T Sato, W Sakamoto, W Odanaka, K Yoshida 2002).
In addition, applying hydrating serums and gels to the skin can help draw water from the atmosphere to the skin. Meanwhile, applying oil based moisturising creams and lotions can help prevent the skin from losing moisture.