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The Stepping Stones of Hydration Research

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The Stepping Stones of Hydration Research

Albert Szent-Györgyi, the Hungarian American physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937, said ‘water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.’ Unescapably true, he also went on to say that ‘research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.’ And therein lies the key, because all study is based upon earlier stepping stones of research – greater levels of understanding and knowing only come when we look at what has gone before and construct ways to better build upon that knowledge.

This is apparent when we consider earlier posts which focused on studies concerning driver dehydration and the importance of drinking water at work to ensure that we perform optimally throughout the work day and beyond. All these studies have based their research on earlier studies, which has led to greater insight and affirmation time and time again, that remaining properly hydrated is paramount to optimal performance.

In The Importance of Good Hydration for Day-to-Day Health Drs. Ritz and Berrut include a summary of the research stepping stones that show how hypohydration (dehydration) adversely affects mental and cognitive performance:

In Shirreffs et al., 2004 the subjects were 15 healthy males/females 30 ± 12 years; the hypohydration method was fluid restriction for 13, 24, 37 hours to 2.7% weight loss at 37 h; and the findings were significant decreases in alertness, concentration; significant increase in headache, tiredness.

In Suhr et al., 2004 the subjects were 12 healthy males/females ≥ 20 years; the hypohydration method was fluid restriction overnight; and the findings were significant impairment of alertness; no effect on visual information processing, reaction time, or spatial or numerical memory.

In Neave et al., 2001 the subjects were 28 healthy males/females 50-82 years; the hypohydration method was fluid restriction overnight; and the findings were lower hydration status related to slower psychomotor processing speed, poorer attention, and memory performance.

In Cian et al., 2001 the subjects were 8 healthy males 27 ± 4 years; the hypohydration method was heat exposure or exercise for 2 hours to 2.7% weight loss; and the findings were significant impairment of reaction time, tracking performance, and short-term memory; no effect on long-term memory; no difference according to hypohydration method.

In Gopinathan et al., 1988 the subjects were 11 healthy males 20-25 years; the hypohydration method was heat exposure and fluid restriction to 1%, 2%, 3%, or 4% weight loss; and the findings were at 2% hypohydration, significant impairment in short-term memory, arithmetic efficiency, attention, and visuomotor tracking; further impairment at increased hypohydration.

Indisputable is that dehydration affects our mental and cognitive performance. While many of these studies focused on severe levels of dehydration, even at milder levels the results showed impaired alertness and slower processing speed. The Loughborough study (examined in earlier blogs entitled Hypothesis, Methodology and Results) similarly examined the effects of mild dehydration (quantified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a body mass loss exceeding 1%), but this time within the context of driving performance during a prolonged monotonous driving task. In this case mild dehydration also showed significant impairment, with dehydrated drivers making twice as many driver errors as their hydrated counterparts. All of which showcases the necessity of hydration packages such as the Driving Hydration Solution – an all-encompassing guide to better hydration and optimal performance.



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