It’s not what you think. Unlike the song from Fiddler on the Roof, we are not talking about alcohol, but instead our good friend H2O.
NBC News and many other news outlets reported on a new study from the National Institutes of Health indicating that poor hydration may lead to chronic disease and early aging. The study took place over the course of 25 years; participants started in their mid-40s to mid-60s and follow ups went through ages 70-90.
There is not total agreement on the meaning of the results. The research used blood sodium levels as an indicator of dehydration, which some scientists believe may not be the most accurate way to measure. Others believe that dehydration is not as widespread a problem as most people believe it to be; in other words, most of us are properly hydrated most of the time.
What is important about the research is that it sheds light on the continuing benefits of drinking water and other non-sugary decaffienated beverages. Drinking plenty of water tends to keep the kidneys healthier; kidneys filter the blood which is then circulated to the rest of the body. The “cleaner” the blood the better it is for the cells that rely on blood for nutrition.
It is also significant that those with higher concentrations of sodium in their blood (which could be the result of not enough hydration), were more likely to have high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar. These are all signs associated with faster aging. On the flipside, those with lower levels of sodium were less likely to have these conditions. While most participants were in the normal range for sodium, those at the higher end had a 20% increased risk of death than those at the lower range.
More research will need to be done, but current recommendations are that women drink 6-9 cups of water per day, and men should consume 8-12. Although water is best, other non-caffeinated beverages are also OK; fruits and other foods with high water content can also increase hydration levels.
Until that research is done, it is always a good idea to keep hydrated–especially before, during, and after workouts, as well as when the weather is warmer.
Tevy from Fiddler on the Roof, had it right. Drink…to life!