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From head to toe, the human body is mostly water. About 60% of the total weight of the human body is water, and the importance of water is quickly evident when we don't drink fluids. Just 72 hours of dehydration causes rapid pulse, parched lips and death.

Water For Cancer Prevention

Very, very few people actually die of dehydration, but the benefits of adequate hydration are a lot greater than most people suppose. French scientists discovered this by feeding lab rats bacon.

Bacon as a Cure for Cancer?

Professors Géraldine Parnaud, Sylviane Taché, Ginette Peiffer, and Denis E. Corpet at the Laboratoire Sécurité des Aliments in Toulouse, France, wanted to conduct an experiment. They set out to determine whether red meat, such as cured pork or roast beef, was more or less likely to contribute to the development of cancer than white meat, such as chicken breast.

The French scientists devised an experiment in which they fed laboratory mice their regular "mouse chow" plus olive oil and milk protein, lard and milk protein, chicken with skin, beef, or bacon. They would observe which mice were more likely to develop colon cancer.

The French scientists were stymied to explain the results of the trial when they observed that the mice who ate a 60% bacon diet were the least likely to develop colon cancer. Rather than issue a statement to feed headlines reading "French Scientists Discover That Bacon Cures Colon Cancer!" the research team took a closer look at the behavior of the mice in their study.

The mice that ate bacon, it turned out, also drank 30% more water. Increasing consumption of water flushed their gastrointestinal tracts of cancer-causing nitrates and nitrites, leading to the paradoxical finding that a high-bacon diet was more cancer-protective than a low-fat diet. The key to success, however, was not the bacon, but the additional consumption of water.

Studies of humans, rather than lab rats, have failed to find any protective effect from eating bacon, but they find significant cancer-protective effect from drinking water. The often-repeated advice to drink at least eight glasses of tap water a day really does not have a basis in science. Some research in Asia has found benefits stop at drinking just five or six glasses (at least 1.5 liters) of water daily. Drinking less than 1 glass of water a day (less than 500 ml) has been associated with higher rates of cancer.

Why Do Healthy People Need Water?

In addition to making up about 60% of the body as a whole, water comprises 65 to 85% of the weight of the heart, liver, and brain, about 60% of muscle mass, and even about 1/3 of the weight of bones. Muscles "bulk up" by combining water and glucose to make glycogen, or by adding water to creatine. Many important nutrients, such as the amino acids and the water-soluble vitamins, have to be absorbed from water solutions.

Most of the contents of the bloodstream are water solutions. Water controls heart rate and blood pressure. It buffers joints from injury, regulates the temperature of the body, forms saliva, and as acts as a shock absorber for the eyes, spinal cord, and brain. Just about the only cells in the body that are not mostly water are fat cells. But do we have to drink tap water, like most Americans, or seltzer water, like most Europeans, to stay hydrated?
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Valtin H. "Drink at least eight glasses of water a day." Really? Is there scientific evidence for "8 x 8"? Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2002 Nov, 283(5):R993-1004. Review.