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Is there such a thing as drinking too much water? — O.Tritt, IL

Pamela Peeke, MD


Water is essential to all systems in the body, but consuming excessive amounts of water at one time (e.g., one quart at a meal) is of no particular value. It'll interfere with food intake because it can extend your stomach and increase your feelings of fullness. The kidneys maintain internal water balance. Therefore, when a large amount of water is consumed, a large amount will also be expelled. 

The human body is one-half to four-fifths water, depending on the amount of body fat you have. Blood is eighty percent water. Water performs such functions as regulating body temperature, removing waste, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, dissolving nutrients and making them accessible to the body, cushioning joints, and preventing constipation. Adequate daily water intake may also help in the prevention of some diseases.

The most common recommendation is that the average adult should consume eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Humans lose approximately ten cups of water daily through normal biological processes and this amount needs to be replaced. Therefore, it is appropriate for the average adult to consume 10 to 12 cups of water per day, given low levels of physical activity and a moderate climate.

 Another way to estimate daily water needs is to divide your body weight by two and use this amount as the number of fluid ounces of water to drink daily. Additional water is necessary during exercise, in extreme heat or cold and at high altitudes.

About Pamela Peeke, MD

Pamela M. Peeke MD, MPH, is an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and stress. Dr. Peeke is Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a Pew Foundation Scholar in Nutrition and Metabolism. Dr. Peeke has done research on nutrition, stress and longevity at the National Institutes of Health. She is also a practicing internist and author of Fight Fat After Forty, Viking April 2000, all about the link between chronic stress and toxic weight — the fat that deposits in your waist and abdomen as you age. Dr. Peeke explains how to break this stress-fat cycle and become fit and stress resilient.

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