Science & Technology

The White House's Latest Food Police Efforts Appear All Wet

Science doesn't back up overconsumption of water


Does vodka count?
Credit: Brenderous / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Michelle Obama's latest obesity-fighting nanny state efforts appear to mimic that one person who passes along every health tip he or she comes across on Facebook: Drink more water.

The problem is the idea that we're not drinking enough water is simply not true. That old eight-glass-of-water day nonsense that went around is a complete myth. The average American's diet usually provides all the water he or she needs.

Politico notes that Michelle Obama is scheduled today to kick-off this push to get Americans to drink more water to improve their health. Politico talked to some water experts on the matter:

[S]everal public health experts contacted by POLITICO said they had concerns about the way the White House was framing the campaign. Those experts said the health benefits of increased water consumption are murky and there are no widely accepted criteria for how much water individuals should drink each day.

"There really isn't data to support this," said Dr. Stanley Goldfarb of the University of Pennsylvania. "I think, unfortunately, frankly, they're not basing this on really hard science. It's not a very scientific approach they've taken. … To make it a major public health effort, I think I would say it's bizarre."

Goldfarb, a kidney specialist, took particular issue with White House claims that drinking more water would boost energy.

"The idea drinking water increases energy, the word I've used to describe it is: quixotic," he said. "We're designed to drink when we're thirsty. … There's no need to have more than that."

Nutrition Professor Barry Popkin suggested what the White House's actual intent probably is: to try to get Americans (especially kids) to drink water instead of drinks high in sugar. Obviously such a change is healthier, but that's not the message coming out. The message is about addition, not substitution:

"I've come to realize that if we were going to take just one step to make ourselves and our families healthier, probably the single best thing we could do is to simply drink more water," Obama said in a press release. "That's it – it's really that simple. Drink just one more glass of water a day and you can make a real difference for your health, your energy, and the way you feel."