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No evidence that drinking water at ‘the correct time’ has health benefits

A meme posted on Facebook in Nigeria claims that drinking water at specific times of the day has health benefits that include preventing a heart attack.

It says: “2 glasses after waking up helps activate internal organs. 1 glass 30 minutes before a meal helps digestion. 1 glass before taking a shower helps lower blood pressure. 1 glass before going to bed avoids stroke or heart attack.”

It is healthy to drink lots of water and keep our bodies hydrated – any time of the day. There’s no evidence that when we drink it gives water these specific curing powers.

Fact-checking site Hoax-Slayer has researched the meme’s advice and found it “doesn’t hold water, so to speak”.

And cardiac surgeon Dr A Marc Gillinov of the Cleveland Clinic in the US says “there is no data to suggest that ‘when’ you drink water matters. Choose water over most other drinks. But don’t schedule your drinking according to a fictitious claim.”

2 glasses after waking up helps activate internal organs?

Hoax-Slayer describes this advice as “virtually meaningless”. Which internal organs would it “activate”? The liver? The lungs? The heart? If these organs weren’t active, we’d be dead. And “a glass of water is unlikely to help us”.

Drinking water first thing in the morning is healthy – it’s healthy at any time of the day. But we don’t have to do it to “activate” our internal organs.

1 glass 30 minutes before a meal helps digestion?

A University of Washington article titled “Water myths debunked” says it “found no research backing up this claim”.

It quotes Dr Michael Rosenfeld, a lecturer in human metabolism, as saying he had “never heard of this claim” and concludes it is “likely a myth”.

In fact, drinking extra water isn’t needed for digesting food, at any time. Dr Braden Kuo of Massachusetts General Hospital in the US told news site Boston that “drinking water is not necessary for digesting food, because the body is very efficient at secreting and reabsorbing its own fluids”.

1 glass before taking a shower lowers blood pressure?

Hoax-Slayer warns that “drinking water before a bath or shower – or at any other time for that matter – does NOT lower blood pressure”. It quotes biomedical researcher Dr Judith Airey as saying that “generally, increasing the amount of water that is consumed will not increase the amount of sodium lost by the blood, so blood pressure will not be lowered”.

“In fact, drinking water can actually cause a very short term increase in blood pressure in some people, particularly those with some types of very low blood pressure. This is only temporary and has no long term impact on blood pressure.”

The University of Washington article concludes that this is also a myth.

It says: “Your blood pressure will not be affected because it is under the tight control of various hormones. If you are severely dehydrated and your blood pressure drops below the normal level, that system of hormones will cause you to feel thirsty. In the case of dehydration, drinking water will actually help increase blood pressure to a normal level.”

1 glass before going to bed avoids stroke or heart attack?

In an article examining bad advice for heart health, HuffPost says “most heart attacks occur in the day, generally between 6am and noon. Having one during the night, when the heart should be most at rest, means that something unusual happened”. So even without the glass of water, you would be unlikely to have a heart attack at night.

The University of Washington looked into recommendations on decreasing our risk of heart attack and stroke by the American Heart Association, US Centers for Disease Control and other US health organisations.

“These recommendations include keeping a healthy weight, staying physically active, eating healthy, managing stress, and refraining from smoking,” it says. “Drinking a glass of water before bed is not on the list.”

More than this, if you have to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom because you drank a lot of water before going to sleep, “this actually heightens your risk of heart attack and stroke because your sleep cycle is interrupted”.

So this advice is also a myth. - Taryn Willows

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