8 facts (and myths) about water — like the 8-glass rule

What the scientific evidence says vs. what we want it to say

Photo by Alison BertToday is World Water Day, and the United Nations has declared 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation. For our new articles and resources about water, please check out our new Water Resources page. Meanwhile, here are some interesting facts about water based on scientific research published by Elsevier:

1. You can get 'drunk' on water.

Water intoxication (WI), caused by over-consumption of water, can be lethal. This condition is usually seen in patients with psychiatric disorders, victims of child abuse or torture, drug abusers or it can be iatrogenically induced (result from a physician's words or actions).Perhaps one of the most renowned fatal cases was the January 2007 death of 28-year-old Jennifer Strange, who competed in a radio station's contest to see how much water she could drink without going to the bathroom. Strange was found dead in her home in Sacramento, California, just hours after taking part in the "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest in which a radio station promised to present the winner with a Nintendo Wii video game system. According to news reports, the official cause of death was "acute water intoxication."

("Forensic aspects of water intoxication: Four case reports and review of relevant literature," Radojevic N., Bjelogrlic B., Aleksic V., Rancic N., Samardzic M., Petkovic S., Savic S., Forensic Science International, Volume 220, Issues 1–3 , July 2012.)

2. Drinking cold water can increase your sweet tooth.

A study has shown that if you drink iced water before eating chocolate, you don't find it as sweet, creamy or chocolaty as people who skip a cold drink. The authors suggest these findings may help explain why North American people, who are more used to drinking iced water, show a strong preference for more highly sweetened foods,

("Temperature of served water can modulate sensory perception and acceptance of food," Mony P., Tokar T., Pang P., Fiegel A., Meullenet J-F, Seo H-S, Food Quality and Preference Volume 28, Issue 2 , June 2013.)

3. Breastfeeding mums need to drink more water.

As 87 percent of milk is composed of water, it is important that breastfeeding women keep their fluid levels high. The National Research Council recommends fluid intake of 2,200 mL (9 c) per day for average females. A breastfeeding mother should drink an extra 750 to 1,000 mL/ day – an increase of at least 34%.

("Water: An Essential But Overlooked Nutrient," Kleiner S. M., Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 99, Issue 2, February 1999.)

4. Water exercise can reduce breast cancer fatigue.

Sufferers of cancer-related fatigue (CRF) experience tiredness or exhaustion that is not caused by activity. In a trial, breast cancer survivors were randomly assigned to either an experimental group (aquatic exercise group in deep water pool) or a control group (usual care). The water exercise group experienced improvements in cancer-related fatigue and strength.

("The Effectiveness of a Deep Water Aquatic Exercise Program in Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial," Cantarero-Villanueva I, Fernández-Lao C., Cuesta-Vargas A. I., Del Moral-Avila R., Fernández-de-las-Peñas C., Arroyo-Morales M., Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Volume 94, Issue 2, February 2013)

5. Problems with kidney stones? Hippocrates had the answer.

Back in 490 BC, Hippocrates would recommend large intakes of water to increase urine output and reduce the risk of urinary tract stones. Today, approximately 12 percent to 15 percent of the general population will form a kidney stone at some time. Many factors can lead to the development of these stones, but diet  — especially fluid intake — is the only one that can be easily changed and that has a marked effect on all risk factors.

("Water: An Essential But Overlooked Nutrient," Kleiner S. M., Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 99, Issue 2, February 1999)

6. Does drinking eight glasses a day keeps your skin hydrated?

The popular view is that drinking six to eight glasses of water each day will keep your skin hydrated, help it look healthier and reduce your risk of wrinkles. This paper concludes that the only certainty about this issue is that there isn't enough scientific evidence available to support this hypothesis. The authors recommend further scientific research.

("Nutrition and water: drinking eight glasses of water a day ensures proper skin hydration — myth or reality?" Wolf R., Wolf D., Rudikoff D., Parish L. C., Clinics in Dermatology, Volume 28, Issue 4 , July–August 2010)

7. Is the contraceptive pill responsible for raising the estrogen levels in water?

This paper examines results of previous research studies and concludes that birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptive methods are not the primary reason for estrogenic compounds found in our environment. It highlights other sources such as synthetic estrogens in crop fertilizer, hormones fed to livestock and industrial chemicals.

("Birth control hormones in water: separating myth from fact," Moore K., McGuire K. I., Contraception, Volume 84, Issue 2, August 2011)

8. People have been fighting over water for centuries.

One of the first "water wars" ever documented was fought between the Mesopotamian city-states of Lagash and Umma more than 4,500 years ago because of a dispute over a canal and its use to irrigate fields that produced staple crops for the two city-states.

("Reconstructing history from ancient sources: the Lagash-umma border," Cooper, J. S., Undena, 1983, cited by The Water and Food Nexus: Trends and Development of the Research Landscape, 2012, a report by the Stockholm International Water Institute and Elsevier.)


The Author

Linda WillemsAs Academic Content & Communications Manager for Elsevier, Linda Willems oversees the Editors' Update website, a resource center designed to keep editors in touch with the latest developments in journal publishing, policies and initiatives. The site also hosts the quarterly Editors' Update newsletter, for which she is Editor-in-Chief. Willems, who is based in Amsterdam, is also on the team behind the Elsevier Journal Editors' Conferences program.

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