Fact Check: Three quarters of Americans are chronically dehydrated

Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisI got an email this morning from a blogger asking me to contribute to a post he was doing on ways to drink more water.

“My reason for doing this post,” he wrote, “is the scary fact that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated and it’s probably the same in most countries. The hope is to create “dehydration awareness” and provide inspiration for how others can drink more water.”

(He also happens to operate a website in which he sells lots of water-related products through affiliate links but I’m sure that’s neither here nor there…)

I declined to participate in the post but I was curious about the claim that three-quarters of Americans are chronically dehydrated. A quick Google search shows this exact claim repeated all over the web (although not by any terribly reliable websites).

Where do these “facts” come from?

The original source for this “scary fact” appears to be a 2013 segment on a CBS affiliate station in Miami, in which they state that “up to 75 percent of Americans may be functioning in a chronic state of dehydration, according to new research.”

No further details about this new research are given so there’s no way to check to see who did this research and what they actually found.  And yet it seems to be in permanent circulation on the web as an established fact.

Well, it may be established but it is not a fact.

According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the average American takes in about 13 cups of water every day, which is in line with the recommendations issued by the Institutes of Medicine.  About 30% of this is the form of plain water. Another 20% comes from food. And the remaining 50% comes from other beverages, all of which contribute to keeping you hydrated.

Although dehydration can be a problem among the elderly and those exerting themselves in hot and/or dry conditions, the typical American is not in danger of dehydration–chronic or otherwise.

3 thoughts on “Fact Check: Three quarters of Americans are chronically dehydrated

  1. This is the original article from June 1998 that referred to the study and quoted Dr. Barbara Levine, then director of the Nutrition Information Center at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
    This article states that the results had yet to be published as of that time. I checked the 1998 annual report for the medical center and there is no reference to it, but it does appear that the survey was at least conducted.

    1. I’m not sure whether this is the “research” that spurred the claim or not. But thanks for unearthing it. It’s interesting on several levels.

      The survey doesn’t appear to measure hydration in any way. Rather it asks people about their consumption of various liquids. It overlooks the substantial contribution of foods to water intake and hydration. And Dr. Levine unfortunately perpetuates the myth that caffeinated beverages are dehydrating. (They’re not.)

      There’s certainly nothing here to support the conclusion that 75% of the population is dehydrated.

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