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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Fluid the vital factor
As anyone knows fluid is absolutely vital to life – without fluid, we will only survive for a short time. Yet, fluid intake is all too often overlooked.
Writing this, while on a trip to Australia to visit relatives, I am conscious of the fact that high temperatures mean that one always tries to carry water along with them in the car. Besides, sadly there are often reports of deaths amongst tourists, whose cars break down and who then attempt to walk for help.
Approximately, 70 per cent of the human body consists of fluid and this is the medium in which most of the vital actions of life occur.
It is generally accepted that for the average person living in a temperate environment, two litres of fluid per day is the recommended amount of fluid to drink. Obviously, this increases with sport, manual occupations or a hot environment. There is debate about which fluids are the ones best for hydration of the body as caffeine containing fluids are considered to have a diuretic effect and those rich in sugar can be harmful to dental health and even frequent consumption of fruit juices due to the acid content is also considered to be harmful to teeth. Therefore, for hydration the preferred fluid is usually water.
In the UK, we are blessed with an excellent water supply with safe tap water. Indeed, in some areas tap water has the added benefits of a high calcium level, which helps in promoting bone health and fluoride, which promotes dental health.
Despite having such a safe water supply, often people tend to drink too little water. Lack of fluid can contribute to a number of health problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, kidney stones, bowel problems, dry skin and reduced concentration levels. From my dealings as a dietitian with people who are referred for help with reducing their level of obesity I have a pet theory that some individuals ignore the signals from their brain to drink fluid, so they eat instead. Certainly encouraging such individuals who are obese to take more fluid and frequent drinks throughout the day has a beneficial effect on reducing their appetite and helping them to lose weight.
It is being increasingly recognised that fluid is important for sports people to maximise their performance and one often sees sports people sipping special sports drinks. Yet for the average person, who has an active lifestyle with participation in activities such as golf, walking, dancing or whatever, water is usually adequate.
Lack of fluid is recognised by some schools to have a detrimental effect not just on their ability to learn but also on their behaviour. Some schools are allowing children to take bottles of water to school and into class rather than the usual cartons and cans of drinks that accompany packed lunches.
Many offices and factories currently have water coolers in place so that adequate water can be drunk.
The message regarding taking adequate fluid is still one that not everyone appears to have heard and many people still take too little fluid especially water. Messages regarding drinking plenty of fluid need to be promoted to children and adults alike to maximise their health and cognitive ability.
Ideas on the beneficial types of fluid to drink are also important. The recognition that tap water is an excellent and cheaper alternative to other fluids is also one to be promoted and expanded upon.