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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's hot but there's no reason to panic.

It's hot! The Middlesex-London Health Unit has issued the region’s second Extreme Heat Alert for the year. More at

The health unit is telling people to drink plenty of water. Consume the stuff throughout the day. Do it even "if you don't feel very thirsty."

Huh? Why guzzle water if you're not thirsty? Studies have shown consuming water, and other liquids, when you are not thirsty is poor advice. For a few people such a suggestion actually puts them at additional health risk.

"The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide."


The health unit is also warning people to lay off the "coffee and cola." Why? Studies have shown that "cola and coffee drinks hydrate you as well as water does." This is, of course, contrary to popular mythology; a mythology now promoted by the health unit.

In truth, coffee and cola consumed during a heat wave keep dehydration at bay. Don't believe me? Here is a link: Caffeine: Is it dehydrating or not? And another: European Hydration Institute.

A lot of the health unit's suggestions are good. Why does the unit weaken our confidence in its advice by repeating old myths?
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This is an add from July 2016. The New York Times is reporting:

"Surprisingly, drinks containing moderate amounts of caffeine and alcohol or high levels of sugar had hydration indexes no different from water. In other words, coffee and beer are not dehydrating, despite common beliefs to the contrary, and regular soda can hydrate you just as well as water."

It's funny but when I tried to interest The London Free Press in my take on the hydration story, I got a lot of resistance. It was me who was spreading myths, I was told. One person at the paper, a runner, was downright angry that I would tell people not to be concerned if they drank a coffee or enjoyed a cold beer on a hot day. I don't believe anyone at the paper checked my sources. They knew the truth. They did not have to check anything. I was left shaking my head.

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