Feature Health Marketing

Waterlogged?

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4280 (Published 12 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4280
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

Margaret McCartney examines the facts behind the claims that we all need to drink more water

Water, water everywhere. Should doctors be telling people to drink more water as a public health issue? Hydration for Health, an initiative to promote drinking more water, held its annual scientific meeting in Evian, France, last week. The initiative has shown its fervour for water with recent adverts in the medical press, including the BMJ. The website states that its mission is “to establish healthy hydration as an integral part of public health nutritional guidelines and routine patient counselling so people can make informed choices.” It believes that “Healthcare professionals should be encouraged to talk with patients about the calorific content of SSBs [sugar sweetened beverages] when discussing lifestyle modification to manage overweight and/or obesity . . . Consumption of water in preference to other beverages should be highlighted as a simple step towards healthier hydration.” And healthier hydration is? “recommending 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily is the simplest and healthiest hydration advice you can give.”

Hydration for Health has a vested interest: it is sponsored and was created by French food giant Danone. This company produces Volvic, Evian, and Badoit bottled waters. The initiative’s website is bold and strident. Under a section entitled “We don’t drink enough water,” it states, “many people, including children, are not drinking enough . . . Children can be at greater risk than adults of feeling the effects of not drinking enough because of their smaller size . . . Elderly people often have a decreased sensation of thirst, which can lead to a higher risk of dehydration [and] evidence is increasing that even mild dehydration plays a role in the development of various diseases.”1

The “we don’t drink enough water” idea has endless …

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