Stockholm hosts, once again, the World Water Week, an annual event that this year is held from August 20 to 24 and which aims to gather all kinds of initiatives to combat water scarcity in a world that is moving towards chronic drought . For five days, international experts in the field will address the issue of water from different perspectives, urging governments and administrations to establish a series of measures to guarantee access and thus lead a change in global behavior.
Thus, water is at the center of the debate these days and numerous international experts address in a transversal way what are the main challenges for the future. With regard to health, it should be remembered that "water plays a crucial role in our well-being and general state of health," says sports nutritionist and nutritional coach Luisa Castillo, who recalls "the importance of having adequate hydration for the proper functioning of all systems.
Drinking water, or getting an adequate supply through the intake of soups, fruits and vegetables, infusions or coffee, "is essential in the digestion, absorption and transport of nutrients, as well as in the elimination of toxins and waste through urine and sweat", explains Castillo, who also recalls that "water is also essential for the body's thermoregulation, especially during physical exercise and in hot climates: even the slightest dehydration can negatively affect our physical and cognitive performance ”.
The problem comes when calculating how much water we should drink to be properly hydrated. Despite the fact that many people are still obsessed with that old belief that it is important to drink at least two liters a day, the truth is that this slogan should not be taken literally, since "the most recent scientific evidence has shown that water needs vary according to different factors, such as gender, age, level of physical activity and climate”, explains Castillo. For her part, nutritionist Paloma Quintana adds other factors such as "having consumed very salty foods or taken water with food: if we have taken infusions, juices and soups, the body will probably not demand as much water from us".
According to Quintana, rather than measuring the amount of water we consume, it is enough to take a look at the urine to know if we are properly hydrated. “If it is dark, and it is not due to diet or medication, it is advisable to analyze water intake, as we are probably falling short, while if it has a constant and normal coloration it will mean that we are hydrating correctly and that we should not be obsessed ”, he points out. For his part, Castillo affirms that another sign that we are not consuming enough water are the possible signs of dehydration, which range from "dry mouth, feeling thirsty, fatigue, dizziness and decreased concentration", among others.
An exception is the elderly, who should be especially attentive to their water consumption. "With age, the sensation of thirst is lost, so in the case of the elderly it is important to keep in mind that you have to drink from time to time," explains nutritionist Fátima Branco.
However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established values for adequate water intake. "In the case of sedentary adults, consumption would be 2.5 liters for men and 2 liters for women, which includes water from food and drinks," explains Castillo. However, "these recommendations are a general guide and may vary based on individual needs." The nutritionist also recalls that these figures do not refer only to drinking water, but to that which we can find in foods such as fruits and vegetables. “Watermelons, oranges, and spinach are high-water foods and a great way to stay hydrated,” she says.
Various scientific studies indicate that even slight dehydration can have consequences on health. One of them, published in 2019 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, concluded that it is associated with a decrease in short-term memory, attention, and sensory perception. Other research, in this case published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, in 2020, revealed that even mild dehydration, equivalent to 2% of body weight loss, decreases physical performance, muscle strength and endurance.
Therefore, Castillo basically recommends learning "to listen to the body and drink every time we are thirsty" and, if it is difficult for us, get used to carrying a bottle of water with us, eating foods rich in water, establishing reminders or preparing flavored waters. that make the act of drinking more pleasant.
Finally, the nutritionist indicates that it is convenient to be careful with diuretic drinks. “Some drinks like coffee, black tea and alcohol can have a diuretic effect, which means they make you eliminate more fluids. You don't need to completely eliminate them, but you do need to moderate your intake and make sure you compensate with extra water,” she concludes.