Drinking two litres of water a day to stay healthy and hydrated is a myth - here's what you really need

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Woman pouring water - GETTY IMAGES
Drinking two liters of water a day to stay healthy and hydrated is a myth. Scientists have found that people need up to six liters of water depending on their occupation, climate and gender.
In recent decades, the need to drink eight glasses of water a day has become standard advice, but there's little evidence to back it up.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US studied thousands of people from 26 countries to find out how much water they needed and found that it varied widely.
They found that daily averages ranged from just one liter a day to as much as six liters, which included water from other beverages like tea and coffee, as well as water in food.
"Science has never supported the old eight-glass thing as an appropriate guideline, if only because it confused total water turnover with water from drinks and a lot of your water comes from the food you eat," said Prof Dale Schoeller, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition Sciences.
"But this work is the best we've done to measure how much water people actually consume on a daily basis — the water turnover in and out of the body — and the key factors that drive water turnover."
Unlike previous studies that asked people to self-report their water intake, the researchers measured the water as it moved through the body.
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Participants drank special "traceable" water containing isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen so scientists could tell when it had leaked.
They found large differences depending on temperature, gender and physical activity.
Weight gain and exercise is an important factor
For example, a 20-year-old male weighing 11 stone, living at sea level in a developed country like Britain, where the average air temperature was 10°C (50°F), and who was on average physically active, would have a roughly 3.2 liters per day.
A 20-pound woman of the same age and activity level living in the same area would only need 2.7 liters.
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When people doubled their energy expenditure in a day, they needed an extra liter, the researchers found, while a 50 percent increase in humidity required an additional 0.3 liters per day.
Weight gain was also an important factor, with the average eight-pound person consuming about 2.5 liters per day, while the average 30-pound person used five liters.
It has been found that athletes consume about a liter more than non-athletes. One male athlete in the study was found to be consuming 10 liters of water per day, although experts admitted he was an outlier.
The researchers found that hunter-gatherers, mixed farmers, and subsistence farmers all had higher water needs than people living in developed countries.
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“People in countries with a low Human Development Index are more likely to live in areas with higher average temperatures, are more likely to engage in manual labor and are less likely to be in an air-conditioned building during the day,” Prof Schoeller added.
"That, plus the reduced likelihood of having access to a sip of clean water at all times, increases their water turnover."
Origins of eight glasses a day
The rule of eight glasses a day seems to have been developed by Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, the American nutritionist who suggested a number of six to eight glasses in 1974. In addition to the water content of fruit and vegetables, this could also include coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks and beer.
Most nutritionists now accept that the body controls water levels well, eliminating what it doesn't need and inducing thirst when it needs to be replenished.
Experts argue that encouraging people to drink more water than the body demands is equivalent to consciously breathing more, simply because oxygen sustains life.
Drinking too much water can be dangerous. When the kidneys can't get rid of the excess, it dilutes the blood's sodium levels and triggers a condition called hyponatremia, which can be life-threatening.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison's research was published in the journal Science.

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