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Is Drinking Water the Key to Aging Gracefully? A Scientific Look

Updated: Jan 20


he human body is made up of 60% water. We know that adequate hydration helps with athletic performance and energy levels, prevents kidney stones, and helps with constipation. Now there is one more reason to ensure you drink enough water: adequate hydration might be linked to healthy aging, lower chronic diseases, and longevity.


In 2019, Allen et al. looked at the long-term effects of chronically decreased hydration in mice. The researchers exposed the mice to mild lifelong water restriction starting at age one month. In the first year, there were no differences in the growth rate and weight of mice with water restriction versus control. However, after the first year, there was a slowdown in weight gain followed by a rapid drop in weight during the last weeks of life. The water-restricted mice had their lifespan shortened by six months or 18% compared to control mice.


In a new study, researchers looked at data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study: a long-term, prospective study with 15,792 adults ages 45-64 years and a 25-year average follow-up.


Researchers looked at serum sodium levels in blood samples to assess hydration status. The normal serum sodium range is 135-146mmol/l. The researchers measured sodium levels at several intervals and tracked 15 health markers to assess biological aging. These health markers included blood pressure, immune markers, and blood sugar levels.

The researchers found that participants with serum sodium levels above 142 mmol/l were 15% more likely to present as biologically older than their actual age. Participants with serum sodium levels greater than 144 mmol/l were 50% more likely to be biologically older than their chronological age.


The researchers then looked at the risk of chronic diseases. They found that serum sodium levels above 142 mmol/l correlated with a 64% increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and dementia.


The potential mechanism for increased aging and disease risk may involve increased serum sodium promoting inflammatory (CRP) and coagulation markers (vWF, fibrinogen, factor VIII).


It is important to remember that this study only shows correlation and not causation. However, given the estimates that around 50% of people are not meeting their daily water intake, we can all drink a little more water each day.


References:

  • Allen, M. D., Springer, D. A., Burg, M. B., Boehm, M., & Dmitrieva, N. I. (2019). Suboptimal hydration remodels metabolism, promotes degenerative diseases, and shortens life. JCI Insight, 4(17). https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.130949

  • The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study: design and objectives. The ARIC investigators. Am J Epidemiol. 1989 Apr;129(4):687-702.

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