Water wise ... over consumption of water can be harmful, warns GP.
The standard advice to drink eight glasses of water a day has been damned in one of the world's most esteemed medical journals, despite it being a recommendation of government health departments around the world.
"This is not only nonsense," Scottish GP, Margaret McCartney, writes in an opinion piece published in the latest British Medical Journal, it is "thoroughly debunked nonsense".
Dr McCartney dismissed dehydration concerns as a myth, writing that the true beneficiaries of the eight glasses a day mantra are the bottled water companies.
Britain's Hydration for Health initiative recommends drinking up to two litres (eight glasses) per day and claims that "even mild hydration plays a role in the development of various diseases."
But as Dr McCartney highlights, the initiative is sponsored by a "vested interest" - the French food manufacturer Danone, makers of Evian and Volvic bottled waters.
In support of her argument against excessive water consumption, Dr McCartney cites several studies, including a 2002 paper published in the American Journal of Physiology, which states: "Not only is there no scientific evidence that we need to drink that much, the recommendation could be harmful, both in precipitating potentially dangerous hyponatremia and exposure to pollutants."
Hyponatremia is a rare but potentially fatal condition, in which the body’s salt levels drop leading to swelling of the brain.
The Scottish GP also refuted the theory that drinking water aids weight loss by reducing appetite. Dr McCartney quotes American metabolism expert, Professor Stanley Goldfarb of the University of Pennsylvania, who says, "there is no evidence that drinking water before meals reduces appetite during a meal."
"It would seem, therefore, that water is not a simple solution to multiple health problems," she concludes.
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