I always knew guzzling two litres of water a day was over the top | Emma Beddington

A new study cuts the traditional public health target down to size. What a relief: it’s never pleasant to drink a cold, flavourless glass of nothing

Finally – finally! – the scientific breakthrough I’ve been waiting for. Not the incredible recent progress on Alzheimer’s or the huge strides towards eliminating HIV, though, sure, that stuff is good, I suppose. It’s the paper suggesting public health guidelines to drink two litres of water a day are probably over the top. “The current recommendation is not supported scientifically at all,” according to my new hero, Yosuke Yamada of Japan’s National Institute of Biomedical Innovation, one of the study’s authors.

Having grown up before Big Hydration got its unpleasantly moist claws into the world, I don’t get on with water, never have. Days go by without me feeling compelled to drink any: I find my thirst is adequately quenched by imagining how unpleasant it would be to drink a cold, flavourless glass of nothing.

I can’t, in good conscience, claim it’s never done me any harm. A nutritionist recently told me that fatigue, brain fog and headaches – all regular events – are usually signs of dehydration; I always assumed they were just facets of my delightful personality. My optician told me I had the driest eyeballs she had ever seen, a fact I have been relating with misplaced pride ever since: I imagine them like little bundles of tumbleweed, rolling dustily around my sockets (no wonder they itch).

On some weird level, I like the thought that things could be better if I drank. Water is my “in case of emergency, break glass” last resort. Fully hydrated, I might spring into exuberant life like those desiccated desert frogs that survive years without moisture do when it rains. It’s nice to pretend that’s an option.

My self-sabotage is slightly vindicated by the study’s conclusion that (a frankly still excessive) 1.5 to 1.8 litres is probably sufficient for most. “You can get about 50% of your water needs from food,” Yamada added, as long as your diet isn’t solely bacon, bread and eggs (did a full English hurt him?). The study also highlighted the cost of producing all that unnecessary drinking water: by eschewing it, I’m actually doing everyone a favour. You’re welcome.

  • Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist


Emma Beddington

The GuardianTramp

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