Water Can Lower Your Risk for Making Simple MistakesEating And Drinking Water
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Water is one of the six basic nutrients you need to live. The others are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. But water is the only nutrient where absence will cause death within days.
We have previously discussed the benefits of water, including hydration. And now if you need yet another reason why you should drink adequate amounts of water, researchers recently discovered that a lack of water or dehydration may alter brain shape and activity and affect task performance.
To test the effects of dehydration on task performance, researchers had study participants do a repetitive, mindless task.
For 20 minutes straight, participants were asked to punch a button every time a yellow square showed up on a monitor. Sometimes the square appeared in a regular pattern, and sometimes it appeared randomly. Such a mindless task was implemented for a reason.
“It helped us to avoid the cognitive complexity behind elaborate tasks and strip cognition down to simple motor output," said one of the leads of the study. In other words, the study “was designed to hit essential neural processing one would use to make straightforward, repetitive movements."
Reportedly, this type of repetition is common in a lot of manual labor or military exercises, so it’s pretty relatable to real life.
The participants performed the task (in an air-conditioned room) on three separate occasions:
- After just relaxing and staying hydrated
- After extended heat, exertion and sweating but with drinking water during exercise
- After heat, exertion,and sweating but without drinking water
After monitoring performance and looking at brain scans of the participants, researchers saw that participants who sweated a lot and did not hydrate made more mistakes on the task. Furthermore, the loss of fluid and being dehydrated showed changes in the brain.
“In the experiments, when participants exercised, sweated and drank water, fluid-filled spaces called ventricles in the center of their brains contracted. But with exertion plus dehydration, the ventricles did the opposite; they expanded,” according to the report.
A definitive connection cannot be made, but it’s interesting that ventricle enlargement may be a contributor to cognitive issues. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says, “Ventricular enlargement may be an objective and sensitive measure of neuropathological change associated with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD), suitable to assess disease progression for multi-centre studies.”
So keeping your body hydrated so that your ventricles work properly is extremely important.
Researchers of the study also found that dehydration also caused a more compacted thalamus, which translates neural impulses and contributes to sensations such as pain and temperature. With dehydration, neural firing can actually intensify and make simple tasks harder. Think of it as your brain just getting overheated.
Along with stressing the detrimental effects of dehydration, this study showed that even if you are hydrated, being overexerted and overheated can still have a negative affect. The subjects’ performances were negatively affected even when they were hydrated while experiencing exertion and heat. Their performances were twice as worse if they did not replace any of the fluid they lost. So with all of this said, it’s important to listen to your body and take a break from excess exertion and heat when you need to.
“The researchers hope that someday this kind of research will offer insights into how increased cognitive slip-ups in hot settings with strenuous labor and poor hydration may endanger occupational safety, especially around heavy machines or military hardware. The fuzzed cognition could also contribute to reduced performance in competitive sports,” the report says.
It must be emphasized that it’s imperative to hydrate when you are working out or enduring strenuous activity. It is also important to fuel your body with other essential nutrients.
Be Proactive. Drink More Water.
If you are not already diligent about drinking water, it’s time to step up your efforts and get drinking! Drinking water first thing in the morning is a great way to start your day off and get your body hydrated. Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times. Add herbs, like mint, to give your water more flavor. You can also add berries to flavor your water.
Eat Your Water.
In the United States it is estimated that about 22% of water comes from our food. You can eat water-rich foods, like cucumbers (which are about 95% water) and watermelon (which is about 90% water). Not only will you be helping yourself get your daily water needs, but you will also be getting critical vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. As a general rule of thumb, fresh fruits and vegetables have a higher water content than most foods. Eating soups, preferably homemade (canned soups have a lot of added sodium), are also a great option for “eating” your water.
Let’s enjoy our healthiest lives!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.