A Skeptic’s Look: Does Drinking Water Slow Down Aging?

From the Lecture series: The Skeptic's Guide to Health, Medicine, and the Media

By Roy Benaroch, M.D., Emory University

A question that is on everyone’s mind is, “How can I stay young and healthy?” People are exposed to a bewildering array of sources and suggestions that are difficult to verify. While asking doctors and other experts is always a good choice, many people turn to news sources and the media to find their answers.

Graphical modern digital world news studio.
Sometimes, the media can give health advice based on no substantial evidence. (Image: Bluemoon 1981/Shutterstock)

Google: The Answer to Everything

Nowadays, whenever we have a question, the first place we turn to for information is Google. And, a query like “What are the best ways to prevent aging and stay young?” will bring millions of results. Headlines and news stories abound in diets or medication that promise a young and healthy body. But, nobody will go through all the results; it is neither possible nor necessary. The first few pages will probably contain the satisfactory answers.

One of the most frequently suggested tips for staying young and healthy on the Internet is drinking lots of water. Although it is common sense that drinking water helps the body stay hydrated and can lead to a healthy look, a skeptic will need to dig deeper to see if these tips are based on sound evidence.

Learn more about the media focus on weight loss.

Media Articles on the Benefits of Drinking Water

a girl drinks water after sport
Many sources recommend drinking water to stay young. (Image: Ruslan Ivantsov/Shutterstock)

An MSN.com article titled “25 Secret Tips to Stop the Ageing Process”, was one of the sources that suggested drinking lots of water. It went: “Doctors recommend drinking 8 glasses per day; however, we say make it a habit to drink at least 12 glasses a day. Not only will these keep you healthy, but will leave a radiant glow on your skin, which will make you look younger.”

The article claims that although doctors recommend drinking eight glasses, it is better to drink 12 glasses. But they don’t provide any links or references to back their claim. Linking to trustworthy sources makes an article more reliable, which this article failed to do.

Another article that provided advice was Health.com’s “The 27 Best Anti-Aging Tips of All Time.” One of these anti-aging tips is “drinking plenty of H2O.” To back their claims, they cite a dermatologist who recommends drinking half of the person’s weight in ounces per day. So, a 180-pound person needs to drink 90 ounces of water every day. That equals 11 eight-ounce glasses, which is near what the MSN article recommended. Here, two sources suggested 11 glasses. The reader might be inclined to believe it is sound advice.

A skeptic first refers to their common sense to see if this recommendation is sensible or not. Drinking 11 glasses of water every day means the person needs to drink a glass every hour while awake or three glasses at every meal. That’s not feasible. And if the person weighs more, for example, 300 pounds, they have to drink 19 glasses a day. It doesn’t seem sensible.

These two articles do not indicate where these numbers come from, so a Google search might help. Searching questions like “How much water do we need to stay young?” or “How much water should I drink to fight aging?” did not lead to any specific results. It can show that drinking lots of water to stay young might not be well-documented.

This is a transcript from the video series The Skeptic’s Guide to Health, Medicine, and the Media. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Media Articles on How Much Water Is Enough

More general queries like “How much water should I drink each day?” seem to offer better results. Two articles provided answers to this question. The Mayo Clinic’s site had an article titled “Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?” This well-known source also recommended drinking 8 eight-ounce glasses of water every day. It calls it a reasonable goal that is easy to remember. But it is not clear what the source of this recommendation is.

Sport shoes and bottle of water and dumbell on wooden background.
There is no substantial evidence to prove eight glasses of water is enough. (Image: Isarat/Shutterstock)

Another article came from Healthline.com, titled “How Much Water Should You Drink per Day?” The report was well-referenced and dubbed the advice of the “8×8 rule.” But near the end of the article, it says that the 8×8 rule is not backed by any scientific evidence, and the rule is arbitrary.

Other news stories try to find out the origins of the 8×8 rule. One example is an article from TheWeek.com,  “Where Did the 8-Glasses-of-Water-a-Day Myth Come From?”

Along with several other stories, this story introduces an article from the National Academy of Science as the source of this rule. Published in 1945, this article has no primary source and suggests that every day 2.5 liters of water are necessary for the body. The report does not provide any evidence to prove the validity of the rule. It seems that the authors have invented the rule.

In fact, there is no one-size-fits-all rule for drinking water. The amount of daily water intake depends on how much water the body needs to compensate for the lost fluids through sweating or other metabolic activities.

Learn more about infections reported in the headlines.

Common Questions about A Skeptic’s Look: Does Drinking Water Slow Down Aging?

Q: How much water should you drink based on your weight?

Some health news articles have recommended drinking water half of the person’s weight in ounces per day. But it does not seem sensible since a person who weighs 300 pounds, would have to drink 19 glasses of water assuming each glass is 8 ounces.

Q: What is the 8×8 rule?

The 8×8 rule concerns the recommended daily intake of water. According to this rule, each person needs to drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of water every day.

Q: How much water should one drink every day?

The amount of water each person should drink depends on how much fluids they have lost through sweating or physical activities.

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