Water is the best drink, and it's free

Last updated 08:29 11/12/2013

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Water is the essence of life, so we should make more of it, writes Jenny Black . 

Our bodies are 55 to 65 per cent water - more like 75-78 per cent for an infant. Most of this is found in the skeleton.

Thirst kicks in when we have lost about 2-3 per cent of our body water, but physical and mental impairment starts before we feel thirsty.

How much water we carry is dependent on our gender and how fit we are. Not enough water will cause dehydration, which then goes on to cause headaches, bad breath, constipation . . . need I go further?

Too much water and the only downside will be more trips to the loo. Excessive hydration can be a problem but it is rare and usually only seen in extreme athletes and infants.

Babies dehydrate far quicker than adults, so need to be watched particularly over the summer.

Heading into summer we need more water because we sweat more and we're outside doing more.

Another fact: we lose 5-10 per cent of our water each day standing still through breathing, average sweating and peeing.

So to keep our body hydrated we need 1 to 2 litres of fluid per day before we start adding the effects of exercise, summer, colds and flus and so on. This is where the often-quoted eight glasses of fluid per day comes in. So all things being equal, water is the best fluid and our bodies run better with it.

But so often these days water has additives, particularly sugar. Consumed on a regular basis, this can take us into the realm of obesity and tooth decay. The introduction of processed drinks, sports drinks, flavoured milk and the like have made this a minefield for parents.

A general rule of thumb is that the energy in these drinks is needed when doing more than one hour of sweaty exercise. Less than this, water is perfect.

"But my kids won't drink water," I hear you say. Your response could be, "it's the best thing for you, it's cheap", "it's here now, you can take it with you in your waterbottle", "you need to run around the block for an hour before you need anything else", or if it's 5pm - "that's all there is, water or nothing".

I agree the pressure is on - when sweetened beverages are cheaper than milk and there aren't many companies advertising tap water, the family water wars are a daily occurrence.

This leads to another conversation - fluoride in water. Many of us are watching other areas in New Zealand debate this issue with interest.

How would you have voted in last October's election if councillors had to declare their thoughts on fluoride?

The Hamilton City Council took it out of their water supply, but a referendum gave a very clear steer from the population that they wanted it left in (as had the voters of Whakatane and Hastings).

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The new council can't decide what to do (who voted them in to do nothing?) and so they are waiting to see what happens in another council before making their decision.

For goodness' sake - and yes I do mean that, for the sake of public good, it's a no brainer.

Over half the children who are admitted to our Nelson-Marlborough hospitals (just old enough to have their first full set of teeth), have their teeth removed or restored - this is Third World stuff.

I think it's clear which side of this fence I'm on. Are we in Nelson-Marlborough brave enough to do something for the common good?

Thank you, if you have got this far and just so you don't think I'm the Grinch who stole Christmas; please have a happy, safe summer with the people you cherish and drink plenty of water, straight from the tap.

Jenny Black is the chairwoman of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and a former dietitian. The views in this article are hers, not those of the DHB.

- The Marlborough Express


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