It's safe to get out of the water

The Baltimore Sun

So that whole business about drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is a lot of hooey?

It doesn't really make you any healthier? It doesn't flush out the toxins or make your skin glow or help you live to be 110 like the health nuts said it would? It's just another health myth that's been discredited?

Like: Reading in poor light will make you go blind? And: Legions of psychopathic adults line up each Halloween to poison trick-or-treat candy and stick razorblades in apples?

Gee, what an upset.

But that's exactly what came out of a recent report by two kidney doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, who say the health benefits of flooding yourself with water have been greatly exaggerated.

Basically, here is what drinking 64 ounces of water a day does for you: It makes you go to the bathroom a lot. In fact, you might as well pitch a tent in there if you're drinking all that water. Take some magazines, start a campfire, sing songs about 100 bottles of beer on the wall, roast marshmallows, because you'll be in there for vast stretches of time. If you work in an office, people will get sick of always seeing you in the bathroom when they're in there. Soon you'll become known as the creepy person who's always in the bathroom, and this does not foster a sense of collegiality with your co-workers.

When the boss is looking for you and a colleague sings out "Oh, he's probably in the bathroom again," it's definitely time to back off the water.

Another thing about the myth of needing to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is that people always said you should drink at least that much. In other words, if you drank only 64 ounces of water a day, you were some kind of slacker. Whereas, if you drank, I don't know, 72 ounces or 80 ounces of the stuff, if you just sat around and guzzled water all day, had it poured down your throat from a fire hose, well, you really cared about your health and would reap many benefits - at least if your bladder didn't explode.

I'm wondering now what effect this University of Pennsylvania report will have on the hard-core water disciples, those people who brag about all the water they drink and walk around looking so smug with their big plastic water bottles or 32-ounce Aquafinas and Poland Springs: I have worked with several of these people, and they can be a real pain. Years ago, one woman in particular would drive me crazy. Each day, some friends and I would go on a coffee run, and I'd always ask this woman if I could bring back a coffee for her.

"Oh, no," she'd say, wrinkling her nose as if I'd suggested bringing back a dead frog. Then she'd hold up her big plastic water bottle like it was a chalice and make a big show of sipping from it. The clear implication was that she was doing something good for her body by drinking all this water, while I was headed straight to Health Hell with my 12-ounce brew from Dunkin' Donuts.

Of course, now that drinking gallons of water has been discredited as a health panacea, the water disciples will probably find another dubious cause to embrace. Maybe they'll start bringing grapefruits to work and gnawing on them all day for vitamins. Or they'll spend their lunch hours on the floor of their cubicles doing hurdler stretches. Whatever.

Their craziness about drinking gallons of water will no longer be our national craziness. No longer will we feel guilty if we're not tethered to a bottle of Dasani or Propel Fitness water. And that can only be a good thing.

In the meantime, the great Penn docs who exposed all this nonsense about drinking excess water - their names are Stanley Goldfarb and Dan Negoianu, if you want to drop them a thank-you note - seem to favor these guidelines about water intake: Drink when you're thirsty. Stop drinking when you're no longer thirsty. And if it's 115 degrees and you're sweating worse than Eliot Spitzer waiting for his credit card bill, drink a little extra water.

What a beautiful concept.

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