DoctorSolve February 2012 Healthletter Edition                                                 (If you cannot read this, click here)
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Greetings once again,

Glad you could join us for another month's worth of problem solving and people healing. In this issue we tackle a myth about drinking water, which seems to have finally run try to new science. As well, we'll explore the topic of television intake: does watching too much TV contribute to obesity in children? The results don't look good.

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  • The 8 Glasses of Water a Day Myth Quickly Evaporating
  • Media Usage and Childhood Obesity are Intrinsically Tied

The 8 Glasses of Water a Day Myth Quickly Evaporating

water

The common assumption that drinking six to eight glasses of water a day is ideal for health, it turns out, is a heavily diluted truth. In actuality, there is no scientific basis for this myth. In fact, drinking too much water can lead to unintended harm.

At some point or another, most of us have likely heard the recommendation to drink around eight glasses of water a day. For some people this entails carrying a bottle of water around for all of, or the majority of, the day. For others, the dread of not living up to commonly accepted health expectations can leave a sense of guilt, or at the very least, a misguided sense of dehydration.

As it turns out there is no evidence for these claims—at all.

"This is not only nonsense, but thoroughly debunked nonsense," writes Margaret McCartney, a family doctor in Glasgow, Scotland, and author of a recent article to this effect. She points to newly published studies that have found no scientific basis for the claim that we need to drink that much water. "People still think that we’re going to die or our kidneys will shrivel up if we don’t drink eight cubs of water a day," she said in a recent interview. "From what I can see, there’s never been any evidence in the medical literature about it."

Scanning back through history for an origin to this unsubstantiated claim shows a US research paper from 1945, and a nutritionist’s writings in the 1970’s, but researchers really cannot be sure. More recently it seems intuitive that the proliferation of the bottled water industry may have, at least in part, contributed to this open faucet of pseudo-science.

McCartney even cites a well-known kidney expert, who suggests that drinking too much water can actually lead to "unintended" harms, such as salt imbalance and exposure to pollutants. McCartney sees those as fairly extreme cases, but urges people to realize that, "if you are drinking excessively, if you are drinking beyond thirst, if you’re drinking beyond comfort, your kidneys are having to work very, very hard."

So, what is the recommended daily intake if it’s not 6-8 glasses of water a day? Health Canada recommends a daily fluid intake—that is, all fluids (except liquor)—of 3.7 liters for men, and 2.7 liters for women.

McCartney urges people to simply follow their thirst. Drink what the body naturally thirsts for, instead of trying to adhere to strict quantities. "You can’t assume that [because] some water is good, more is better. It just doesn’t work like that."

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Media Usage and Childhood Obesity are Intrinsically Tied

kids watching tv

Childhood obesity is a serious crisis as rates have tripled within the past 30 years. In 1980, in the United States, 7% of children were obese whereas nearly 20% of children were obese in 2008. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now warning parents about the dangers associated with having a television (TV) in a child’s bedroom, as research has shown that media contributes to the development of child and adolescent obesity. TV and media consumption is already known to contribute to childhood obesity and the child obesity statistics only rise with the presence of a TV in their bedroom. In the studies, if a child age 9 to 12 had a TV set in their bedroom, they were more at risk for obesity, regardless of their physical activity level. Children age 1 to 5 with a TV in their room are also at greater risk of being obese, and teenagers are less likely to be physically active as well as eat fewer vegetable and drink more sweetened beverages.

TV and media usage is also associated with sleep pattern disruptions—those who watch three or more hours of TV a day have increased difficulty falling asleep. Furthermore, decreased sleep is associated with increased snacking and a more sedentary lifestyle, both of which have a direct relation to weight gain.

In order to prevent child obesity, the AAP recommends that parents ask some of the following questions to see if their child is at risk for youth obesity: How much time does a child or teenager spend with screen media per day? Is their usage monitored and/or restricted? Additionally, parents should educate their children about good nutrition choices and discuss the food commercials with their children.

Pediatricians must also remain vigilant and take measures to combat childhood obesity. For example, pediatricians can collaborate with community groups and schools to educate children; they can also collaborate with parent and public health organizations. They should advocate for more counter advertising and more pro-social video games that encourage children to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices. Pediatricians should also realize that high levels of media exposure increase a child’s risk of mood disorders, substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, and asthma.

With all the above in mind, it is important that you take steps to instill in your child healthy patterns so that they will not become obese. Doctor Solve is dedicated to providing tips on how to remain fit and healthy, such as in this article here.