Even mild hydration, research shows, affects our cognitive performance and physical comfort. Given that it takes a mild dehydration of a percent or two to even begin feeling thirsty, it is clear that many of us could constantly be slightly dehydrated without even knowing it. Not only could this chronic low-level dehydration explain the unexplained fatigue so many people suffer from, it might also represent a key piece of the obesity puzzle.
The Relationship Between Overweight And Dehydration
A research team from the University of Michigan, knowing that doctors often advise overweight patients to drink large amounts of water in an effort to shed pounds, set out to discover the real link between hydration (or lack thereof) and Body Mass Index. Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the team selected a sample of nearly 10,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 to answer their questions.
The fact that approximately a third of their sample suffered from dehydration is shocking enough in itself, and something that should lead everyone to re-examine whether they should boost their water intake. The really interesting part is still to come, however.
Study author Dr Tammy Chang shared: "What we found was that people who were inadequately hydrated had increased odds of being obese."
People suffering from chronic low-level dehydration were more likely to be overweight or obese, in order words, or... overweight and obese people were more likely to be dehydrated? We don't know, yet. This study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, clearly shows that there is a statistically significant link between Body Mass Index and dehydration, but further investigation is required before it is possible to draw any clear conclusions.
Regardless, Dr Chang pointed out, we can all learn something from this study:
"Hydration may be overlooked in adult weight management strategies. Our findings suggest that hydration may deserve more attention when thinking about addressing obesity on a population level. Staying hydrated is good for you no matter what, and our study suggests it may also be linked to maintaining a healthy weight."
What Should You Take Away From This Study?
We already know that thirst impulses can be misinterpreted by the brain as hunger pangs. We also know that experiencing thirst regularly should really send us the message that we haven't been taking our fluid intake seriously and that we ought to work harder on drinking fluids.
If you are currently trying to lose weight or hoping to gain any more, try always having hydrating fluids (not caffeine, sugary drinks, or alcohol) on the go, and remembering to actually drink them. Commit to making water your primary source of hydration, and drink a large glass before having a meal to see whether it was really hydration, not food, that your body was craving.