Today we have a population who believes that everyone should drink 64 ounces of water daily. Five decades ago, we used to agree with humorist W.C. Fields’ who when asked if he drank water replied, “Hell No. Fish pee in water.” Today, we live in fear of dehydration while we should worry about the opposite — Hyponatremia: water intoxication.
How did we get to this stage where we worry about drought but think nothing of wasting water? It began in in 1945 when the U.S. Government issued a dietary directive, which said that everyone should drink 64 ounces of water daily. This number was apparently the result of a requirement that we drink 1 milliliter per calorie consumed daily (about 2500 calories a day!) We know that this is at least 600 more calories than what most women should consume if they don’t want to size up. So this directive went forth but omitting a crucial line: that all fluids count — obviously tea and coffee are 99% water—but also fruits, vegetables are mostly water. Even steak has water! So the line omitted should have said total fluids and that these were easily contained in any balanced diet.
So why you ask did this water nonsense take hold? Why did the American public decide to pay for trillions of plastic bottles of water considering that water in the USA is free, easily available and safe? The answer is d-i-e-t-i-n-g became big business — $65 billion at the latest count — and diet gurus figured that everyone needed something to put in their mouths that had no calories and was “healthy.” Even better, spring or purchased water was thought to be purer so it was purifying and holy as in holy water. Now 50 years after dieting started with the founding of Weight Watchers, we face water shortages; plastic bottles will be with us forever, and we are fatter than anyone thought possible. Plus the malady du jour is water intoxication whose symptoms: loss of energy, fatigue, restlessness and irritability may make one think they need to drink more bottled water and eat yet another “healthy” snack for refueling. However, what we really need is a BIG dose of common sense.