Water – No Need To Overdo It

As part of my research for the Live Forever Manual I thought drinking plenty of water would be an obvious tip, but the evidence wasn’t clear enough that it extended life. So it hasn’t made it as a practical tip in the book, though there are plenty of benefits from keeping well (but not overly) hydrated.

The 8 glasses of water per day rule came from a 1945 recommendation stating that a suitable water allowance for adults is 2.5l/day in most instances. However internet, sports and nutrition media tend to present these quantities as plain water ignoring the fact that most of those fluids are regularly consumed in everyday meals and drinks. One of the probable reasons for hydration becoming a popular issue presented by media and regulatory bodies was the increase in the consumption of caloric beverages, which has contributed to obesity prevalence worldwide. This isn’t an issue in the UK, as one epidemiological study found that total fluid intake was mostly comprised of hot beverages, followed by water.

water - no need to overdo it

Water certainly is an essential component of our diet in so many ways. Firstly, it controls body temperature through fluid loss (sweating). The second essential feature is regulation of kidney function as kidneys use water to filter waste from the bloodstream and excrete them via urine.

Some smaller-scale studies also found that bad hydration may be linked with adverse cardiovascular health as it is involved in regulation of blood volume which is closely associated with blood pressure and heart rate. Blood volume is tightly regulated by the water intake/output ratio, which means that loss of body water will also decrease the blood volume, that way affecting other elements of the cardiovascular cascade.

Although gastrointestinal health is largely affected by bad dietary habits, it is also seen that inadequate water intake is a common culprit in constipation problems. Enhanced water intake is recommended in those problems as it can enhance gastrointestinal transit, however, evidence suggests that people respond differently. That is because some people are in hypo-, hyper and euhydrated state. The only usefulness of this treatment is seen in individuals that are in hypohydrated state not in those that are well hydrated.

Large observational studies found that water deprivation may affect cognitive performance, impair concentration, increase irritability and prolong migraines. The mechanisms underlying the associations between water intake and cognitive performance are not well studied, but there are indicators that mild dehydration may physiologically stress the body and compete with cognitive processes. it has been proposed that mild dehydration acts as a physiological stressor which competes with and draws attention from cognitive processes.

Skin health and moisture is often linked with proper water consumption, and this was confirmed in clinical trials in which 2L of mineral water/day had an impact on these features. Again, the significant results were obtained in the group that was already less hydrated and not in people that were euhydrated.

It is noteworthy to mention that water requirements vary greatly depending on the climate zone (people living in hot climates have higher requirements than those living in colder temperatures), while there is also a big difference between sedentary people and those performing some physical activity. People who have regular exercise in hot conditions and no adequate fluid replacement are at higher risk of hyperthermia, reduced stroke volume and cardiac output, while they also tend to experience decreases in blood pressure and reduced blood flow to muscle.

Yes, reasons for good hydration are plenty, however, a lamp of evidence reports conflicting results, that way suggesting that recommendations and alarms from the media are overreacting. Large population-based studies do not support the notion that we should drink 2 or more litres of water per day. As a matter of fact, one of them concluded quite the opposite – women that drunk higher amounts of water had a lower survival rate than those drinking less. One population-based cohort also failed to confirm that high water intake may lower the risk of kidney dysfunction and cardiovascular diseases in older adults (average age of 70.3), nor in men aged 55-75. But in another large-scale study they found a significant negative association between water intake and the risk of fatal coronary heart disease (which was more pronounced in men), while women with higher intake of fluids other than water were more likely to become ill.

Finally, animal-studies data were pointing out that inadequate urination may prolong the contact time between carcinogens and urothelium thus enhancing the risk of bladder cancer occurrence. One large-scale prospective study supported the notion that men should drink 2.5 l of water daily in order to lower the risk of bladder cancer.

So, according to the science we should definitely pay attention to our hydration status, however, bear in mind that you consume fluids through your regular diet too.

Warts precision medicine got to do with it?

Today we are still a long way from precision medicine. I visited my GP this week, which I don’t do very often, so was interested to see how technology is coming along in primary healthcare. I was able to book my appointment online, and check-in at reception using a touch screen computer instead of queuing to speak to a receptionist. There was even a computerised board announcing which room to go to – all very nice efficiencies that no doubt save some staff costs.

But the consultation with the doctor was pretty much the same as I imagine it has been for a hundreds of years. He had a quick look at a small but ugly growth on my abdomen, asked a few questions (which relied on my very fallible memory of how long I had it, whether it had changed recently, etc) and said it looks like a wart. To quote him accurately, “we’ll assume it’s a wart until it’s something more serious.” Given the tools and time available there’s nothing else he could assume – in 99.9% of the cases he’s probably correct – but that 1 in a thousand times when it turns out to be something more serious this is a wasted opportunity of early diagnosis. The same scenario no doubt plays out hundreds of times a day in that one small medical practice for all sorts of complaints – the vast majority of symptoms of a common cold or viral infection will be exactly that.

But what if it my growth, or someone else’s nasty cough, does turn out to be a cancer? Not that I think it is, I’m just using it as a hypothetical case study. By the time it’s grown and metastasised the tumours may be too numerous to fight. And certainly any attempt to treat it will be lengthy and costly. Compare that to the cost ff it was found early and treated immediately.

precision medicine spot the cancer

I’m not a doctor, but after reviewing dozens of images online of different types of skin infection I can see that rarely do two photos of the same condition look the same. There seems to be as much variation within a disease as between them. So in this modern technological age we shouldn’t be relying on highly-educated guesswork, we should have precision medicine that can accurately determine the root cause of symptoms. I’d hope by now that a quick swab, or a pin prick of blood, could be taken and within minutes it’s analysed to determine if there are antibodies or blood markers of serious disease.

We are getting close to this – recent news has included a sample-free laser test for malaria with results in 20 seconds, a single test that identifies all past virus infections and most recently a urine test that detects unique protein signatures of pancreatic cancer. It will probably start slowly, with quicker and cheaper tests for the most common diseases coming first. Then as technology prices reduce rarer conditions will also be able to be tested – just in case.

Eventually, in some utopian medical future, these tests won’t even have to wait until you have symptoms and decide to visit a doctor. Your daily routine will include a simple test carried out at home before breakfast to check for any developing problems before you are even aware of them. It may be even further in the future that we can cure any disease we find, but we will always have a better chance of doing that if we detect it in its very early stages.

Anti-aging industry to drive real life extension technologies

Although most of the technologies mentioned in this interesting article by the IEET fall into what I would call life extension and rejuvenation, I do believe that the cosmetics driven anti-aging industry is where some of the first breakthroughs will come from. There are plenty scientists working on the big killers like heart disease and diabetes who compete for public funding to help humanity, but this is could be matched by the R&D budgets of companies that produce radical and scientifically tested anti-aging procedures, be it a cream, injection or minor surgery.

It is estimated that the market for anti-aging products will soon reach $290 billion, which if we estimate 5% for research and development that’s a budget of $14bn which is the same as global funding for cancer research.

In the UK, when a respected documentary reported that a particular face cream really did help rejuvenate the skin under dermatology examination the product sold out nationwide having sold 5 month’s worth of stock in a day. The cream stimulated the production of fibrillin-1, a protein that promotes elasticity in the skin, however had the effect been truly instantly visible I suspect the product would have been even more successful.

With that sort of profit surge, a company could fund further advances for years to come. And once skin deep appearance has been addressed the natural (or unnatural in some people’s eyes) next step will be to address under the skin conditions that actively improve underlying health rather than just one’s appearance.