We are mainly made of water, and water plays many roles in our bodies. Our water needs change during our life, depending on factors such as age, sex, climate, diet and physical activity.
From cradle to grave
As a fetus, we are almost entirely made of water, in the early stages, and float in water in the womb. At that time, mother already has to stay well hydrated. Later, lactation requires her to maintain a high fluid intake.
During infancy and childhood, our bodies contain a higher percentage of water than those of young adults and we are more vulnerable to dehydration.
As active adults, our health and performance depend critically on adequate hydration, especially when our work involves physical effort, if we exercise vigorously or live in a hot climate.
Moving into old age, our muscles start to atrophy, our bodies contain less water and lose water more readily and our sensation of thirst diminishes. Yet we have the same water needs as a younger adult.
A delicate water balance
At every stage in life, to avoid dehydration, we need to drink water regularly throughout the day. “Dehydration” affects numerous functions and processes: executive functions, memory, attention, perception, psychomotor skills, language, motivation, mood and physical well-being1. Even slight dehydration (1% loss of body weight) impairs concentration, short-term memory and alertness(1).
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Sources: (1) Schmitt et al. General methodological considerations for the assessment of nutritional influences on human cognitive functions. Eur J Nutr 2005; 44: 459-464