British Nutrition Foundation conference explores the links between hydration and health  

Research on the relationship between hydration and health is being presented by leading experts and researchers at a British Nutrition Foundation conference in London today (11th November 2010).

Bridget Benelam from the British Nutrition Foundation, who is introducing the conference, explained why the amount of water we need to be healthy can be so difficult to define “Everyone knows that we need water to live, but what is less widely understood is how variable our fluid requirements are. From day-to-day the amount of water we need changes depending on factors such as temperature, humidity and physical activity. Also, two people under exactly the same conditions may need completely different amounts of water due to individual physiological differences. The good news is that our bodies have sophisticated mechanisms to make sure we stay hydrated, and that we as individuals can take simple steps to ensure our body water stays topped up”

Hydration is vital for all age groups, but young children and older adults are at a particular risk of dehydration. Vanessa Shaw, head of dietetics at Great Ormond Street Hospital highlighted that physiological differences in infants and young children mean that their water requirements are relatively higher than those of adults. This can make them more vulnerable to dehydration. Professor Patrick Ritz from Université Paul Sabatier, France then outlined the prevalence of dehydration in older people, and the adverse effects this can have on health and wellbeing in this population.

During physical activity, more water is lost as sweat and so hydration requirements increase. Dr Susan Shirreffs from the University of Loughborough described how hydration could affect exercise performance under different conditions. Evidence suggests that dehydration equivalent to a 2% loss in body mass impairs the performance of endurance exercise in a hot environment (e.g. 31-32oC), but that in a temperate environment (20-21oC) this level of dehydration did not have a significant effect.

The issue of hydration and health has found growing prominence in the media in recent years. Although it is positive that awareness of hydration is raised, the downside is that messages from the media about hydration can be contradictory. Consumer perception of healthy hydration messages was the subject of the presentation by Catherine Collins, chief dietitian at St George’s Hospital.  She explained that, although 9 out of 10 consumers think that drinking water is important for health, they often don’t have all the facts. She emphasised that health professionals must challenge myths and misconceptions about hydration.

The afternoon session of the conference comprised a series of short presentations given by researchers in the field of hydration and health. This was chaired by Professor Ron Maughan of the University of Loughborough and Dr Jane Holdsworth of the European Hydration Institute and provided an insight into some of the latest research in this field. Areas covered included research into hydration status in the workplace, beverage consumption in children and the hydration status of ultra-marathon runners.

This session was concluded with a presentation from Professor Maughan, outlining the current state of research on hydration. He explained that, despite the interest in this area, we still need more data to give an accurate picture of fluid consumption and hydration status of the population as a whole.

Benelam concluded “The current recommendations we have for fluid consumption give a very general indication of how much we should be drinking. We can each take care of our individual hydration needs by making sure we respond to feelings of thirst, by checking that our urine is pale in colour, and taking care to consume extra fluids when physically active”


For further information, interviews and images contact:

Bridget Benelam
Tel: 0207 4046504/07966 032293. Email: [email protected]

Dr Emma Williams
Tel: 0207 4046504. Email [email protected]

Notes for Editors:
1.    The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) conference Hydration and health is being held in London on the 11th November 2010.
2.    Film footage of the conference, including interviews with speakers will be available after the conference.
3.    BNF offers an expert nutrition information service for journalists and media. Tel: 02074046504. Email: [email protected]
4.    BNF was established over 40 years ago and exists to deliver authoritative, evidence-based information on food and nutrition in the context of health and lifestyle. The Foundation’s work is conducted and communicated through a unique blend of nutrition science, education and media activities. BNF’s strong governance is broad-based but weighted towards the academic community.  BNF is a registered charity that attracts funding from a variety of sources, including contracts with the European Commission, national government departments and agencies; food producers and manufacturers, retailers and food service companies; grant providing bodies, trusts and other charities. Further details about our work, governance and funding can be found on our website ( and in our Annual Reports.
5.    The Foundation thanks  the European Hydration Institute for financial support that has enabled the cost of this event to delegates to be subsidised  

Last reviewed November 2010. Next review due December 2013.