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Obesity: Could Being Well Hydrated Prevent Weight Gain?

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Obesity is a global issue with over 600 million adults defined as obese worldwide. Researchers may have found a potential method of prevention for this escalating global epidemic, in the form of hydration.

Drinking enough water every day has long been cited as important for health. Water is lost through many everyday body functions such as breathing, perspiring, urination, and bowel movements.

For your body to function properly, water must be regularly replenished through consuming beverages and foods containing water. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, tiredness, and, at the severe end of the scale, it can be life-threatening.

While the amount of hydration an individual needs depends on weight, age, and activity level, the Dietary Reference Intake of fluids from both food and beverages per day is a recommended 2.7-3.7 liters for adults.

New research from the University of Michigan suggests that people who have a higher body mass index (BMI) and are considered obese are more likely to not be properly hydrated.

The findings, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, are composed of a nationally representative sample of 9,528 adults from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The survey ranged in age from 18-64, and about one third of participants were inadequately hydrated.

Link between hydration and weight unclear

Lead author Tammy Chang, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, says, "The link between hydration and weight is not clear. Our study further explains this relationship on a population level using an objective measure of hydration."

Although the association between hydration and weight needs further investigation, Chang makes reference to current recommendations that hydration may assist with weight loss due to individuals misinterpreting thirst as hunger.

Chang and colleagues are unable to say at this stage whether inadequate hydration causes obesity or if obesity causes inadequate hydration.

However, their findings show a correlation between the two and suggest that those with a higher BMI may possess behavioral traits that lead to insufficient levels of hydration.

"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," said Chang.

Maintaining a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables that are high in water content can significantly improve hydration, Chang advises.

As to whether hydration can influence weight, more studies will need to be conducted.

Written by Hannah Nichols