Several years ago, I sat in the office of the woman who ran the weight management program for UPMC, the largest hospital/insurer in the Pittsburgh region. She sat down with me to talk about this new Mediterranean diet idea, and my perspective on it.
She loved the emphasis on veggies, became a little iffy on their total embargo on low fat food products, and even queasier around the idea of wine every day with meals. So then she asked me THE question: how much water do you recommend people drink in a day.
She posed it like a rhetorical no-brainer question. Of course, everyone knows that you have to drink at least 8, 8-ounce glasses per day. It was a total gimmie putt. Drinking this amount of water was enshrined on our food pyramid itself, along with all mainstream health authorities, which means that it has been reviewed by our very best nutritional minds.
I said that this recommendation doesn’t exist anywhere but here, because no healthy culture does that – only us, the people with the health problems. And the Mediterranean diet is no exception, with no requirement to drink a minimum of that amount of fluid every single day.
At that point, she dismissed me and the entire Mediterranean diet with some sideways comment about her having to follow “evidence based medicine” -- like her and the rest of the nation, I presume.
That was about 6 years ago. But today, you just don't see any official advice to drink at least 8 swimming pools of water per day. The reason why this evidence-based pillar of dietary dogma has been silently removed is because there was never any science evidence to base it on in the first place. (read this wonderful review dissecting it all)
Once it was revealed that the science was baseless, and the advice on this from our health authorities held exactly zero weight after all, it poofed out of sight. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
That said, there is a kernel of truth. Let’s say you live in the Sahara, and eat nothing but powder (or work outside in Arizona, say). Under those conditions you can lose up to 8, 8-ounce glasses of water per day. But if you live in normal conditions, and eat normal foods that have water in them, you’re just not in need of that much water every day.
The frustrating part of this is the pretentious nature of our health advice, hiding behind the veneer of authenticity called “evidence based medicine.” And yet no organization who supported the 8x8 advice has come forward to say that they were totally wrong in misleading people into believing that this was reasonable (or evidence based). They just moved on to the next recommendation like some form of drive-by nutrition advice.
For you and me, we need reliable, common sense health advice. Do you need water? Of course you do. Do you need to stay hydrated? Yes! But do you need some external rule that is supposed to apply to everyone on earth (start with a whopping 8, 8-ounce glasses of water every single day, and then go from there)? Of course not.
You need to stay hydrated, but the amount of water you need to drink varies by geography, altitude, work conditions, sun/wind conditions, if you’re breast feeding, etc. Given that riot of variability, no one-size-fits-all answer could ever possibly make any sense. So a good rule of thumb is to simply check the color of your urine, and drink water until your pee runs clear.
Can we put an icon of that on a food pyramid?
For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.