We’ve been given a lot of contradictory advice about drinking water over the decades. Drink eight glasses of water. Don’t drink eight glasses of water. Drink only when you’re thirsty. Drink as much water as possible. However, too much water can kill you. Well, according to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, it turns out drinking water and aging are related.
The “anti-aging” benefits of drinking water
There’s nothing wrong with aging, of course. We should all be so lucky to be able to do it. But in this case, we’re referring to the diseases and bodily degeneration that accompany age. According to CBS News, the study shows that drinking enough water is “associated with a significantly lower risk of developing chronic diseases, dying early, or being biologically older than your chronological age…”
Study author Natalia Dmitrieva from the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute said in a news release.”The results suggest proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life.”
You might be skeptical about that. But when you look at all of the studies on (clean) water consumption, it’s pretty obvious that it can help deliver some health benefits under the right circumstances.
How was the study performed?
Dmitrieva and her lab gathered an impressive amount of data from 11,255 adults over a 30-year period. They compared the subjects’ serum sodium levels (something that reliably goes up when a person doesn’t drink adequate water to meet their body’s needs) to 15 health indicators. These included things like blood pressure, respiratory and immune functioning, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.
And you can imagine what they found. Adults with high serum sodium levels were more likely to develop chronic diseases. They were also more likely to die younger than those with low serum sodium levels (and therefore, higher water intake).
This helps strengthen the results of a 2022 study that linked poor water intake to heart disease.
How does water affect aging?
Data was gathered from the subjects during five medical visits, two when they were in their 50s and 60s and the last between the age of 70 and 90. They also used relatively healthy subjects who did not already have chronic high serum sodium levels or other factors that could affect results, like obesity. They also adjusted for things like race, sex, and smoking status, since those can affect someone’s overall lifespan.
According to the NIH, they found:
“They found that adults with higher levels of normal serum sodium – with normal ranges falling between 135-146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) – were more likely to show signs of faster biological aging. This was based on indicators like metabolic and cardiovascular health, lung function, and inflammation...Adults with serum sodium levels between 138-140 mEq/L had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease.”
Correlation and causation
Water intake, health, and aging are correlated in these studies. There appears to be a relationship between them. But you know what they say – correlation does not equal causation. That means there can be other factors involved, and that water intake does not immediately affect any of these disease or aging outcomes.
Of course, maybe water intake is the key. But that’s not something the study can prove. For that, we’ll need a lot more evidence and research into how our bodies develop or stave off specific diseases.
But in the meantime, this information can help guide our choices. Since more than half of adults in the U.S. don’t drink enough water, maybe it’s time to incorporate more into your day. — WTF fun facts