Saturday, December 09, 2006

Are You Drinking Too Much Water?

There was a study from Purdue University that "revealed" what dietitians have known for decades: You get a lot of water from your food. Even a slice of white bread, for example, contains 1 ¾ teaspoons water.

Soon, every newscast said, "Forget about drinking eight glasses a day." The take-home message? Just drink if you're thirsty; you'll get the rest of your fluid from food.

The problem is, I'm not sure I always drink when I'm thirsty. Even though I'm the nutrition editor of Prevention, I admit there are days when I'm so busy that I come to the end of the day and realize I haven't had much to drink (or eat) since morning. And I bet there are lots of you just like me.

So my advice is this: Keep the eight-glasses-a-day rule--not as a do-or-die goal, but simply as a tool to remind you to drink enough fluid to make up for any shortfall from your food. The payoff? Plentiful fluids may help wash away six health problems:

Urinary tract infections (UTIs). "Chronic UTI sufferers can literally bring one on by letting themselves run low on fluids several days in a row," says Prevention advisor Mary Jane Minkin, MD, gynecology expert at Yale University School of Medicine. And I know this is true from personal experience!

Kidney stones. If you tend to form kidney stones, drink enough liquid to void at least 2 quarts of urine a day, advises the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK). Drinking eight glasses of fluid a day is a good starting point.

Bladder cancer. In one study, those who drank six 8-oz glasses of water every day reduced their bladder cancer risk by 50 percent (New England Jour. of Medicine, May 6, 1999).

Colon cancer. Higher water intake has also been linked to a 45 percent lower risk of colon cancer in women (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, July 1996).

Obesity. Reaching for calorie-free glasses of water throughout the day helps many people stay filled up enough to pass on snacks, says Prevention Fitness Editor Michele Stanten.

Constipation. Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day can help prevent constipation by keeping stools soft, says Dr. Minkin.

Holly McCord, a registered dietitian, is former Nutrition Editor of Prevention and author of Win the Cholesterol War (Rodale 2001).


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