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Water, Water Everywhere ...

Unlike Coleridge's ancient mariner, we have ready access to all the water we need to maintain proper bodily function, yet most of us consume less than we should. The average person requires about half a gallon of fluid daily--and not all of this daily requirement need come from what we drink, for much of what we eat, especially fruits and vegetables, contains water.

Reporting in the Annals of Internal Medicine, April 1, 1998, Harvard researchers found that the risk of kidney stones in women depends not only on how much but on what they drink. Among the 81,093 women ages 40 to 65 who participated in the Nurse's Health Study, those who consumed about 11 eight-ounce glasses of fluid daily were 38 percent less likely to develop kidney stones than those who consumed a mere six glasses or so. (Diluting such minerals as calcium and oxalates in the urine lessens the possibility of deposits in the kidneys.)

Of the 17 beverages assessed separately by the researchers, wine seemed to offer the most protection. The women who drank eight ounces daily had a 59 percent lower risk of developing kidney stones than those who did not drink wine. While there was not much difference among most of the other beverages for relative risk, one was associated with a 44 percent increase in risk: grapefruit juice.

Although grapefruit juice is known to increase blood levels of some medications, the researchers had no clue why it should increase the risk of stone formation. Nor did they recommend alcohol consumption as a way to prevent kidney stones. Perhaps people who have already had a stone should avoid grapefruit juice, but otherwise the recommendation is simply to drink plenty of fluids. This goes for men as well, an earlier study in a large number of men having had similar results.

Kidney stones or no, we should all pay closer attention to the amount of fluid we consume. While water is no panacea for our ills, as some ill-informed purveyors of medical advice claim, it is an essential component of daily living. Nor should we disdain plain old tap water in favor of fancy bottled waters. Contrary to much of advertising hype about alleged benefits of bottled water, community water supplies in this country are, with rare exceptions, providing water of satisfactory quality.

Although thirst is normally a reliable indicator of the need for water, it may not adequately reflect a need for more fluid when engaging in physical exertions. When engaged in vigorous physical activity, drink a glass of water frequently, whether feeling the need for it or not. An excellent indicator of water need is the color of one's urine. If you're urinating at regular intervals during the day and your urine is light yellow, your fluid intake is adequate. If it's dark yellow, you need to drink more.
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Publication:Medical Update
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 1998
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