Mild Dehydration Has Substantial Adverse Effects, Especially in Women

Mild Dehydration Has Substantial Adverse Effects, Especially in Women
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Research from the University of Connecticut reveals that mild dehydration affects mood, energy levels and mental performance in both men and women.

Two recent studies from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory reveal that even mild dehydration can have serious adverse effects on mood, vitality and mental performance. According to doctors, when a loss of body water of just 1.5% occurs, mild dehydration sets in. Scientists warn that women seem to be particularly vulnerable to the symptoms of dehydration, although both sexes are affected to some degree.

The human body constantly requires water

Lead study author and expert on hydration, Dr. Lawrence E. Armstrong, explained that, according to test results, dehydration affects individuals in the same way regardless of the level of activity they’re involved in. Consequently, it doesn’t matter if a person is running on a treadmill or laying in bed, they will still experience the effects of dehydration with the same intensity.

“Our thirst sensation doesn’t really appear until we are 1 or 2 percent dehydrated. By then, dehydration is already setting in and starting to impact how our mind and body perform. Dehydration affects all people, and staying properly hydrated is just as important for those who work all day at a computer as it is for marathon runners, who can lose up to eight percent of their body weight as water when they compete”, said Dr. Armstrong.

Each of the two studies was carried out on a separate group of participants. Twenty-six young men were tested for the first study, which was published in the November 2011 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition. The second study evaluated twenty-five young women and is featured in a past issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Both the men and women were in their early 20s, and leading generally healthy and active lifestyles.

When dehydrated, good mood is the first to go

To initiate the trial, participants were asked to walk on a treadmill until mild dehydration settled in. Next, they were asked to complete a battery of tests that measured their vigilance, concentration, reaction time, learning, memory, and reasoning. Finally, these results were compared to a separate series of tests that the participants took when properly hydrated.

With the first test, the women’s group reported fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating. Although no significant loss of cognitive skill was associated with dehydration, the women also said that the tasks seemed more difficult.

The men’s group also reported some fatigue, tension and anxiety, but also performed worse on tasks involving vigilance and working memory. Overall, the men’s symptoms were considered less severe, prompting the scientists to conclude that dehydration’s adverse effects are “substantially greater in females than in males, both at rest and during exercise”.

Research psychologist and studies co-author, Harris Lieberman, talks about how virtually any aspect of a person’s life can be affected by mild dehydration: “Even mild dehydration that can occur during the course of our ordinary daily activities can degrade how we are feeling, especially for women, who appear to be more susceptible to the adverse effects of low levels of dehydration than men. In both sexes these adverse mood changes may limit the motivation required to engage in even moderate aerobic exercise. Mild dehydration may also interfere with other daily activities, even when there is no physical demand component present.”

For adequate hydration, doctors and researchers recommend that people drink 8 tall glasses of water per day. A good way to check for hydration levels is to look at the color of urine, which is pale yellow when a person is properly hydrated, but progressively turns darker and more intense as they lose water.

Sources for this article include:


Article originally published on republished with permission

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