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The hidden menace of H2O
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


April 15, 2005

It's an old story. One study says coffee is bad for you; another it's not. A couple of drinks a day is good for your heart, a researcher says; no, no, says someone else equally as distinguished, it's the first step toward alcoholism.

Take aspirin; don't take aspirin. Fast food is bad for you; not if you're careful about what you eat. You're not taking enough vitamin X; too much vitamin X and your ears fall off.

Now comes a study in The New England Journal of Medicine that says too much water is bad for you. Water? Please, not water.

A study of marathoners found that those who drank too much water were prone to hyponatremia, a precipitous drop in sodium levels in the blood that can be debilitating and even fatal. Of 488 runners studied in the 2002 Boston Marathon, 62 of them _ 13 percent _ had hyponatremia, three of them nearly fatally so.

The danger applies to any intense sport or exercise. The gazelles who run up front are in little danger because they're going too fast to drink much, but the plodders who take the dangers of dehydration too seriously are at risk because, at their pace, they have plenty of time to drink.

Studies haven't been done yet, but you have to wonder if we're not becoming a nation of water junkies. Check out any street corner at rush hour and everybody seems to be carrying bottles of water and consuming them at a rate that would sustain a combat infantryman in the Iraqi desert.

Water should be our friend. Don't abuse it.


Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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