- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2018

It’s no secret that drinking water is necessary for good health, but a new study shows staying hydrated is essential to being alert and focused.

Researchers at Georgia Tech found that even a small amount of dehydration can significantly impair a person’s attention, motor functions and ability to complete tasks. Such failures can be observed in people who have a water deficit greater than 2 percent of their body mass, the equivalent of about a liter of water.

The research was led by Matthew T. Wittbrodt and Melinda Millard-Stafford from the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech, and their study was published in the July issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The report is a review of previous research on how dehydration affects cognitive function. The researchers pulled 33 studies with 413 participants to collect data.

Participants in the studies were evaluated on how they performed on several mental and physical cognitive tests after being dehydrated from exercise in heat, exercise only, heat stress (with no exercise) or fluid restriction.

“Despite variability among studies, [dehydration] impairs cognitive performance, particularly for tasks involving attention, executive function, and motor coordination when water deficits exceed 2% body mass loss,” the authors wrote in their conclusion.

In an email to The Washington Times, Mr. Wittbrodt explained that not drinking anything for 12 hours can result in about 1 to 2 percent dehydration. About one hour of moderate exercise can result in 1 percent dehydration.

“A distinct sensation of thirst appears as body water losses approach 2% body mass loss,” Mr. Wittbrodt wrote. “Thus, if someone feels thirsty, they are likely within the range of dehydration we found results in cognitive impairment.”

General recommendations for water intake is around eight, 8-ounce glasses a day, but people should drink when thirsty and consider personal needs differently.

In a report by the National Academies of Sciences, women are recommended each day to ingest a total of 91 ounces of water from beverages and food. Men should aim for a total of 125 ounces of water.

About 80 percent of total fluid intake comes from water and 20 percent from food, the academy note.

Surveys of U.S. drinking habits have found that young people drink an average of 15 ounces of water a day and adults about 39 ounces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Staying hydrated provides lubrication for joints, protects sensitive organs, regulates body temperature and gets rid of waste.

It also can improve mood, memory, energy levels and productivity.

An estimated 77 percent of U.S. workers don’t get enough water throughout the day, according to a recent survey by Quench Water, a filtration company. Women are more likely than men to be dehydrated, with 80 percent of women not getting enough water compared to 73 percent of men.

“Really, to our surprise was that the majority of respondents said they don’t drink enough water during the day,” said Tony Ibarguen, CEO of Quench Water.

Reasons for not drinking enough include that 36 percent said they didn’t have enough time to get water, 24 percent said they had to pay for water at work and 22 percent said they dislike the taste of water.

“What was interesting was when we dug into why people weren’t drinking enough, one of the factors was they didn’t have enough time and also that they didn’t trust their water or didn’t like the taste,” Mr. Ibarguen said.

This was a surprising finding: In 2016, bottled water sales surpassed all other beverages, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp.

Staying hydrated in the heat is key, especially since temperatures have reached record highs each summer over the past decade.

While much of the country is experiencing a respite from the heat, it’s not expected to last, with higher-than-average temperatures predicted by the weekend, particularly in the nation’s midsection, according to Jonathan Erdman, senior digital meteorologist for Weather.com.

“We’re really heading into the dog days of summer,” Mr. Erdman said.

Hotter days have led to hotter nights, increasing the risk of illness and death from heat stroke.

The National Weather Service works to alert the public of extreme heat and to take precaution, drink enough water, stay in air-conditioned rooms, refrain from exercising or exerting energy during the hottest parts of the day, and ensure children and the elderly are keeping cool.

“It’s been persistently warm and sometimes it’s the persistence that gets you, not just the magnitude,” Mr. Erdman said.

The CDC recommend a number of common sense hacks that can increase how much water one drinks, including carrying a water bottle around for ease and eating foods with high water content such as celery, tomatoes or melons.

Drinking water also is recommended over any sugary or flavored drinks. Storing a few water bottles in the freezer ensures ice-cold drinks on hot days.

• Laura Kelly can be reached at lkelly@washingtontimes.com.

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