On Our Need for Water

Did you know that once you feel thirst you are already dehydrated? As we age, our thirst urge lessens. Approximately 37% of people have a weak enough thirst urge that they misread it as hunger!

Although there is no Recommended Daily Intake for water because it varies with weight, height and activity level, the standard recommendation for the most sedentary of us is 64 ounces daily.

Go waterless for three days and you will die. Even a 1% loss in body weight due to water loss can cause fatigue. At a 3% loss of body weight due to water loss, performance and coordination suffer significantly and the chance of heat related injury skyrockets.

Most bodily functions like digestion, metabolism, and temperature regulation require water. The skin requires it for elasticity and to expel impurities.

Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages act as diuretics in the body and actually have an inverse effect on hydration. Foods and juices do contain water, but pure water is still the best way to hydrate on a daily basis.

But these days, finding pure water is not so easy. The EPA estimates that 40 million Americans drink water with excess lead. Many people turn to bottled water for safety and taste.

The outstanding reputation many water bottle companies have in both these areas was tarnished in 1999 when the National Resources Defense Council released a report that six supermarket brand waters and four mineral water brands tested too high in contaminants.

Now, Companies that belong to the International Bottled Water Association open their plants to unannounced inspections and all rated fine. So look for this association on labels.

Types of bottled water: The NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) is now pushing for more stringent labeling laws to inform consumers of what's inside the bottles we are buying. The FDA has made no changes so far. Whether or not we're in store for label changes, it's important to read the ones that already exist.

Types of waters also can be confusing.

The FDA defines "spring water" as any water found in an underground formation that flows naturally to the surface. Examples of spring water brands include Evian and Calistoga.

"Natural sparkling water" is spring water that contains natural carbon dioxide, but tonic, seltzer and soda water are not classified as bottled water at all since their carbonated fizz is manmade, not natural.

"Artesian water" is collected from naturally occurring underground springs by pumps forcing it to the surface. These brands include Fiji and El-dorado.

"Mineral water" is defined as bottled water containing not less than 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids. It can be either spring or artesian and the minerals, such as calcium, iron, zinc and potassium, must be naturally occurring. Well known examples include Perrier, San Pellegrino and Gerolsteiner.

Lastly, "purified water" (distilled water is a subset of this) may actually start out as tap water, but after undergoing distillation, reverse osmosis or other processes, end up distinctly different from tap water and definitely "cleaner". Dasani and Aquafina are examples of purified water.

Taste Matters: Bottled water brings added pleasure to meals and other social occasions. A general survey by a website known as "Geiser", while unscientific, does give some insights into what people like. The top of the taste chart, Fiji, and artesian water often served in fine hotels. The most popular waters available here in the US were Evian, San Pellegrino, Poland Springs and Adobe Springs.

Best Water for Your Bones: A new study confirms that your body absorbs calcium from mineral water as easily as it does from milk. (Osteoporosis International, vol 11, 2000). But don't be fooled. Only bottles labeled "mineral water"- not "spring" or "artesian" are guaranteed to contain natural minerals. You get a lot more calcium with some brands than others.

Best bet: Gerolsteiner-four glasses a day is like drinking a glass of milk.

We close by leaving you with these hints for Good Water Habits:

*Drink water first thing in the morning *Keep a water bottle with you all day *Drink a glass of water 20 minutes before meals *For exercise, experts recommend you drink 13-20 ounces before you begin and 6-8 ounces every 15 minutes during your session or walk/run. *Keep water bottles sanitary by washing daily

* Information from a variety of sources including, Fitness Plus magazine, November 2001, Alternative Medicine magazine, January 2002, and Prevention Magazine, June 2001

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