Some Interesting Facts about the Fluids We Drink

“Fancy a drink? At some point today the answer will be yes. The average adult drinks about 1.7 litres of fluids a day: water, tea, coffee, soda, milk, fruit juice and more. But our ideas of what we should be drinking are clouded by urban myths, wishful thinking and dubious health claims. Time to mix in some fact.” (Adee et al., 2017, p.32).

  • Water:
    • It is the most essential nutrient, you can’t not drink water.
    • If you don’t drink any water, you will be dead within 7-8 days.
    • Drink to thirst.
    • Water doesn’t:
      • Remove toxins from the skin;
      • Visibly improve your complexion; nor
      • Cure constipation.
    • Drink eight (8) glasses a day (no scientific validity according to physiologist Heinz Valtin).
    • There is some support for the idea that drinking cold water makes you burn calories.
    • Water with a meal does reduce overall calorie intake.
    • There is some evidence that water (i.e. being well-hydrated) can protect against health problems such as:
      • Colorectal and bladder cancer;
      • Heart disease;
      • Hypertension;
      • Urinary tract infections; and
      • Kidney stones.
    • Good hydration makes it easier for the kidneys to extract waste.
    • Too much water can make you hyponatremic (i.e. too little sodium (aka salt) in the blood).
    • Some studies suggest that water can improve the focus/attention of children (aged 7-9) and recall.
    • Dehydration can cause a decline in alertness, concentration and working memory.

“Whether for those reasons or simple taste, many people prefer to buy bottled water. Either way, that could be a waste of money, in most parts of the West at least. Around 25 per cent of bottled water sold in the US is simply tap water from municipal sources.” (Adee et al., 2017, p.33).

Did you know that pasta, legumes, salmon, ice cream and chicken breasts contain approximately the same percentage of water (60%-69%). Pizza is 40% to 49% water. Oils and sugar contain 0% water, whilst walnuts, crackers, cereals and peanut butter contain 1% to 9% water (Adee, 2017).

  • Soda, Squash and Juice:
    • Sparkling mineral water generally has a high sugar content and contains phosphoric acid (generally neither are good for your teeth).
    • One can of sweetened fizz (or the equivalent) can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by a quarter (25%).
    • Mice consuming artificial sweeteners (for those who don’t want sugar) can gain weight and even develop glucose intolerance (a pre-cursor to type 2 diabetes). Evidence is still mixed on the causal factors.
    • One small 150 mililitre glass of pure fruit juice counts towards your five-a-day in the UK or seven-a-day in Australia.
    • Fruit juice has less fibre than its original fruit.
    • Some commentators suggest that pure fruit juices should carry the same health warnings as added-sugar drinks.
  • Sports Drinks:
    • Can help replace fluid, energy and electrolytes (i.e. sodium, potassium and chloride) lost during exercise.
    • Most sports drinks have a high sugar content.
  • Low-Fat Chocolate Milk:
    • Its 4:1 mixture of carbohydrates and protein appears to be ideal for muscle recovery after a workout.
    • Most studies have found it to be just as effective, or superior, to an over-the-counter recovery beverage (i.e. sports drinks).
  • ‘Free’ Sugar:
    • Also known as added sugar.
    • The World Health Organisation recommends limiting free sugars to 50 grams a day, while advising a further reduction to 25 grams.
    • One can of coke can give you 140% of the 25 gram limit.
    • Two pints of lager (UK, 1136 ml) can give you 120% of the 25 gram limit.
  • Milk:
    • A Swedish study published in 2014 found that drinking three glasses of milk a day over an average of 20 years increased overall mortality compared with drinking just one –while showing that consuming fermented milk products such as yogurt and cheese reduced both fracture risk and overall mortality.
    • Soya milk has less fat than cow’s milk, however, it is often pre-sweetened (counting towards your free sugar limit).
  • Coffee:
    • Excessive consumption has been linked to heart disease and cancer.
    • It can increase alertness and focus, although the effect is short-lived.
    • Coffee contains high levels of compounds called chlorogenic acids, known to slow the body’s absorption of glucose.
    • Two oily compounds in coffee, cafestol and kahweol, do seem to increase ‘bad’ cholesterol that clogs blood vessels. However, most coffee we drink, including instant, does not contain much of either.
  • Tea:
    • The evidence is contradictory that that drinking green tea (and to a lesser extent, black tea) lowers the risk of breast, gut and lung cancers.
    • One woman did lose all her teeth at 47 due to a fluoride overdose from tea, but she had been brewing up 100 to 150 teabags daily for 17 years.
  • Super-Fluids:
    • Studies suggest coconut water is no better or worse at hydrating than water.
    • There is some evidence that beetroot juice (rich in nitrates) can relax blood vessels and improve blood circulation, however, it has a high sugar content.
    • There is a potential link between too much nitrate and increased risk of stomach cancer.
  • Vinegar:
    • A small study suggested that both diabetic and non-diabetic volunteers had more stable blood sugar and insulin after a meal of complex carbohydrates, if they first had a drink of diluted vinegar.
    • Vinegar contains a collection of amino acids and polyphenolic compounds which may have beneficial effects. However, it also contains acetic acid which is not particularly good for your tooth enamel.


Adee, S., Cossins, D., Howgego, J., Lawton, G., O’Callaghan, T., Webb, R. & Williams, C. (2017) Fancy a Drink? New Scientist. 11 March 2017.


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