Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Can you drink too much water?

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Something that I’ve been hearing a fair amount recently is that you can drink too much water. Ever since the eight cups of water rule-of-thumb was debunked a few years ago it seems that popular opinion is swinging the other way and people are concluding that we should drink less water.

While it’s certainly possible to drink too much water, it’s highly unlikely that the average person will manage to do so in the run of a day. The people dying from hyponatremia (low sodium levels in the body which can be caused by excessive water consumption) are usually athletes who are consuming more water than their bodies have lost and/or not enough accompanying electrolytes. I could also sit at a desk and chug a gallon of water with the same effect, but no one’s ever suggested that this is a good idea.

Okay, so you may not be likely to die from hyponatremia but aren’t you still putting a strain on your kidneys by drinking water throughout the day? Unless you have a medical condition, healthy kidneys can excrete as much as 12 litres of urine a day! (this is according to Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy by Mahan and Escott-Stump). That’s a damn sight more than 8 cups, 2-3 litres, or whichever recommendation you’ve heard. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to cause damage to your kidneys by drinking water throughout the day and you’re more likely to suffer from dehydration than over-hydration.

Of course, the amount of water each person needs varies. It depends on how much water you’re losing through sweat, your altitude, pregnancy and breastfeeding, health status, etc. According to the Institute of Medicine, the average adult woman needs about 2.2 litres of fluids a day, the average adult man, about 3 litres. Thirst is certainly a great indicator that you should have something to drink. And it’s true that other beverages (yes, even coffee and tea) and foods can contribute to your overall hydration. Water is the most commonly recommended choice as it doesn’t contain any added calories, sugar, or other substances you might wish to avoid. It’s can also be free and is generally easily obtained.

Don’t be scared off by people saying that you can drink too much water. And don’t use it as an excuse to avoid drinking water all day. We are approximately 60% water and we need to consume adequate fluids to maintain healthy body function. Don’t ditch your water bottle!


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Chocolate milk, juice, and marketing untruths

 

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After I wrote about how sugar’s not inherently evil on Monday, I’d now like to take exception (again) to the marketing of chocolate milk as a healthy beverage choice.

As I’ve mentioned before, just because there’s nothing wrong with having some sugar in our diets, that doesn’t mean we can’t have too much. Just because sugar’s not bad for you doesn’t mean it’s good either and it certainly doesn’t mean that most of us couldn’t stand to cut back on it a bit.

So… My best friend sent me the above photo (taken from a Dairy Farmers of Canada booklet) last week. It’s a great example of the food industry twisting the facts. Sure, a glass of chocolate milk has the same amount of sugar as a glass of apple juice. That doesn’t lead to the conclusion that chocolate milk is a nutritious choice. Both beverages have 24 grams of sugar per cup. That’s 6 teaspoons of sugar! That’s a lot of sugar in something that’s not going to fill you up. The conclusion should really be that neither chocolate milk nor apple juice is a healthy choice. Both are liquid candy, with a few added nutrients, and should be treated as treats.

I also would like to add my annoyance at the chocolate milk sponsored half marathon I ran on Sunday. The only beverages I could find at the end of the race were chocolate milk, juice, and coffee. Now, if anyone deserves chocolate milk, it’s probably someone who just finished a long run. However, sweetness doesn’t appeal to me after a race and all I wanted was a drink of water. I ended up settling for a cup of black coffee until I got home. As we were exiting the finish area, someone on the sound system was extolling the benefits of chocolate milk as the ultimate post-race rehydrator. Actually, no. If you missed it before, here are my thoughts on that. I get that the race needs sponsors, and I don’t mind there being chocolate milk available. However, I don’t think that it should necessitate the exclusion of water.


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Let’s Clear It Up makes one thing about the beverage industry clear

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One of the joys of blogging is getting unsolicited requests from PR people telling me what to write about. Some of them are pretty random, like the one I got about promoting the new album from a former reality show contestant, the tenuous connection to my blog? That the singer is committed to living a healthy lifestyle. Ha. Some of the requests are interesting and worth writing about (like the Beyond Milk and Cookies project I wrote about a few weeks ago). And then there are the slightly scary ones.

Those would be the ones from groups such as the American Beverage Association. The message I received urged me to “keep the facts in mind” and proceeded to disparage a new study that purportedly found that “postmenopausal women who sip diet soda are more likely to experience heart attacks and stroke“. Unfortunately, the research has yet to be published so I can’t comment on it directly. However, I think it’s pretty telling that the ABA feels sufficiently threaten by the research that they’re emailing bloggers such as myself (who, if they’d done any reading at all would have seen that I’m generally critical of the food industry) asking us to be critical of such research.

The email included a link to the ABA’s “educational” website “Let’s Clear It Up” which states:

Soda is a hot topic. And the conversation is full of opinions and myths, but not enough facts. America’s beverage companies created this site to clear a few things up about the products we make. So read on. Learn. And share the clarity.

The website presents “myths” and “facts” on topics such as artificial sweeteners, marketing, and caffeine, among many others. Unfortunately, it would take me far too long to comment on each “myth” and “fact”. So I’d just like to make a couple of fairly general comments. The first is in regard to marketing. The ABA claims that soft drinks and energy drinks are not marketed to children. Soft drinks not to audiences younger than 12 years of age, and energy drinks not to those in grade school. Are you kidding me?! Energy drinks sponsoring extreme sports isn’t marketing to teens? Putting cute little polar bears in your commercials isn’t targeting children?? I know that the pledge to stop marketing to children was just last year but I don’t think all that much has changed since Yale reported on broken industry marketing promises in 2011. The second is that many of these “facts” are misleading and while not being outright lies are twisted truths. Take hydration for example. Just because the 8-glasses-a-day has been busted and because other sources of fluid can contribute to hydration does not make pop a good choice for hydration. Sigh.

“Let’s Clear It Up” is a desperate attempt by the ABA to convince the public that their unhealthy beverages are healthy. The only thing made clear by the site is that the industry is running scared.


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Let them drink pop: Water doesn’t = weight loss

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Big News: “Water not a ‘magic bullet’ for weight loss“. While I don’t dispute any of the information presented in the article, I do take issue with a major fact that is not presented in the article. 

The article states that the vast majority of research has shown no increase in weight loss for those who consume more water versus those who do not. Drinking water does not increase caloric burn. The article also dismisses the pervasive myth that beverages such as coffee do not contribute to overall hydration – YAY! All true. 

The article then quotes the RD as saying, “if you don’t like water it’s OK.” The idea is that you can obtain your hydration from other beverages (and foods). While absolutely true from a hydration standpoint, I think that this statement does a disservice to those who are attempting to lose weight. While I’m sure it was not her intent, I think that this could easily be interpreted to mean that it’s fine to choose beverages such as juice, pop, and coffee with sugar and cream rather than a glass of water. Yes, these will all hydrate you, however, they will also add non-satiating calories to your diet. If you drink just one 8 oz glass of orange juice, one 12 oz can of Coke, and one medium double-double (sorry, non-Canadian readers) a day you’ll be adding 458 calories to your daily intake. Compare that to zero calories from three glasses of water. 

Obviously weight loss is not as simple as replacing caloric beverages with water (or non-caloric beverages) but that can certainly be a part of it. To suggest that all beverages are equal is untrue and misleading. Water doesn’t boost your calorie burn but it can minimize your overall caloric consumption if you replace caloric beverages with it. 


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Drink up: Water myths

I think we’ve all heard by now that the previously prescribed 8 glasses of water a day is a myth. But other myths about water persist. One such myth is that we shouldn’t drink “too much” water. What exactly “too much” is, I’m not sure. In my mind, the only way you’re really drinking too much water is if you end-up with hyponatremia. Unless you’re an athlete exercising under conditions where you’re not sweating much but you’re consuming lots of water, this would take quite a feat of effort to induce through water consumption. I’m confident that the vast majority of people could quite safely consume considerably more water during the run of a day.

Of course, precise recommendations for water consumption are difficult to provide. On average, men should consume about 3 litres of fluid per day, women about 2.2. However, we get fluid from many beverages and foods than water. Which brings me to another myth: coffee and tea are dehydrating. Coffee and tea both count toward your fluid intake for the day.

I suggest keeping a reusable water bottle with you all day and drinking regularly; especially when thirsty or when sleepy. The majority of your fluid should be consumed in the form of water.

One final myth surrounds the consumption of water and meals. Many people drink a glass of water to fill them up before they eat if they’re trying to lose weight. We often mistake thirst for hunger so it’s a good idea to have a glass of water about 20 minutes before eating to ensure you’re not trying to eat away your thirst. Of course, if you need to gain weight (or if you’re a growing child), it’s best to keep food and fluids separate to ensure maximum food consumption. Others say not to drink water with meals because it will impair digestion. This appears to be another myth. Of course, everyone is different, and if you don’t like to drink water with a meal that’s perfectly fine. However, if you do enjoy a glass of water with your meal, go for it, you can probably use the hydration.