EU Bans Claim That Water Prevents Dehydration

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

After a three year investigation, European Union officials have concluded that there is no evidence to prove that water can prevent dehydration. Bottled water producers are now forbidden by law from making such a claim. The European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) refused to approve the statement that “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration.” Critics have said: “This is stupidity writ large.”

The ridicule has been non-stop. But there are some important details being overlooked.

Dehydration is not just a lack of water, hypotonic or hyponatremic dehydration is caused by a loss of electrolytes, primarily sodium. The most common state of dehydration in children is due to acute gastroenteritis. In this case, drinking water is not going to reduce the risk of developing dehydration.

Oral rehydration therapy is indicated for those experiencing dehydration caused by diarrhea, such as caused by cholera or rotavirus. A solution of salts and sugars taken by mouth have saved millions of children around the world. Dehydration caused by diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under five.

In extreme cases of dehydration, vomiting can prevent replenishment of necessary water and electrolytes via drinking. In this case fluid replacement by intravenous or intraarterial therapy is necessary.

The Scientific Opinion of the EFSA found that: “the proposed claim does not comply with the requirements for a disease risk reduction claim pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.” Article 14 states:

… for reduction of disease risk claims the labeling or, if no such labeling exists, the presentation or advertising shall also bear a statement indicating that the disease to which the claim is referring has multiple risk factors and that altering one of these risk factors may or may not have a beneficial effect.

Clearly the proposed bottled water label contains no reference to multiple risk factors, as required when making a claim about reduction of disease risk. Dehydration can have multiple risk factors. Drinking water only helps reduce one of these risk factors.

While it is amusing to ridicule government bureaucrats, the record on this story indicates a severe case of laziness, or blind adherence to a political ideology that government is bad and European government is worse.

H/T: The Telegraph, The Guardian.


17 thoughts on “EU Bans Claim That Water Prevents Dehydration”

  1. Actually, water does prevent dehydration, because by definition dehydration is a pathological lack of water.

    I am a nurse and the distinction is made in medical textbooks between dehydration and hypovolemia.

    Hypovolemia obviously means “low volume,” and implies a pathological lack of fluid volume and is used when there is an accompanying electrolyte reduction. (If there was a raise in electrolytes, it would imply lack of water in proper ratio, thus, simple dehydration.)

    Why it might be reasonable to strike the right to claim water’s curative power against “dehydration” isn’t because it doesn’t do so, but that the general public may seek to treat their own serious low-electrolyte hypovolemia with water and inadvertently further dilute their electrolyte levels. However that would be very, very rare. A person would have to drink a huge amount of water and have become hypovolemic with a concurrent huge output of sodium or potassium in order for this to be a problem.

    I suspect a sports drink lobby.

    But I don’t feel too sorry for the water industry; water doesn’t need to make obvious health claims and an individual with a healthy brain will instinctively seek fluid when even slight dips in fluid volume present, usually water. If they want to spend money on marketing, they should shunt choice to their camp by pointing out it’s “no calorie” and “natural.”

    (Regarding rehydration after illness, electrolyte drinks are great for having loss fluid volume due to vomiting, but don’t treat diarrhea with them, alone. Diarrhea causes serious metabolic acidosis and sports drinks are as acidic as soda. Take bicarb with it.)

  2. Having been admitted to the ER on a few occasions suffering from dehydration and having suffered dehydration at times during long hospital stays, the treatment of choice was always a saline drip. Sure water is good for you and definitely you need to drink about 64 oz. per day, especially in hot weather. The idea though is that these bottlers of water have been pushing their product in a manner that does not educate the public, but slightly deceives it. The real question is since it is such a basic human need why isn’t good water free? I sometimes think that if our atmosphere could be copyrighted we’d be paying for that also, with of course the freedom to choose among many products. My choice of course would be “Rocky Mountain High”.

    Good catch David.

  3. puzzling:

    Why is this post dedicated to the medical complexities of rehydration?

    Because “regular consumption of significant amounts of water” does not always reduce the risk of developing symptoms that require rehydration. If a child contracts a rotavirus and develops gastroenteritis, “regular consumption of significant amounts of water” will not reduce the risk of developing dehydration.

  4. The denied claim was “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration.”

    The label wording was not attempting to claim that water can rehydrate you once dehydrated. Why is this post dedicated to the medical complexities of rehydration? It’s a straw man argument.

    Why do government agencies tell us to drink lots of water if that can’t help reduce the risk of dehydration?

  5. Hi All,

    As a loyal lurker and great fan of the “Turley Blawg” I have been remiss in not commenting more often on all the excellent work done by the regulars and our esteemed guest bloggers. Kudos to you All, you are truly Outstanding!!!

    This is a serious topic; and the usual whiff of snark from a certain commenter has annoyed me. Dehydration treated incorrectly can be Deadly!

  6. anon:

    Yes, drinking water prevents dehydration in all but a few corner cases.

    What you’re saying is: “it prevents a disease except in those cases where it doesn’t.” That’s a label I can live with.

  7. David,
    Interesting story. I hadn’t heard of this issue until I read your article. I do think that water can help the situation, but as you suggested, it is only one part of the equation.

  8. The claim that was denied was set up to troll the regulators, and the regulators fed the troll.

    Now so-called progressives feel the need to rush in and defend dumbass regulators who allowed themselves to be caught feeding a troll.

    Your logic, the classic argument that developed in the past 48 hours to defend these idiot regulators is just a variant on Xeno’s Paradox mashed up with political deconstructionism.

    Nal, better responses are found in this fark thread,, by your logic, guns don’t kill people, cars don’t cause deaths, heating food to improper temperatures doesn’t cause illness, and Xeno can never cross the line.

    Vitamin C does not prevent scurvy, and may put you at risk of Vitamin C overdose.

    I wish idiot lawyers would stop defending the indefensible on their own time.

    Yes, drinking water prevents dehydration in all but a few corner cases.

    Idiot lawyers who like to argue the number of angels on the heads of a pin and otherwise fist words until they mean what they want to mean can go hang.

    Nal, since you clearly believe this is a regulation worth defending, and since you have so nicely warned us against the use of water, I am sure you’ll have no problem demonstrating to us the strength of your belief by vowing not to drink any water at all for the next week.

    In the meantime, I lay off the sulfuric acid for the same period of time.

    Are you up to that?

    The opposite of bullshit is not defending different bullshit.

    Just say, “No thank you”.

    ” A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

  9. As stated in the linked Scientific Opinion:

    The Panel notes that dehydration was identified as the disease by the applicant.


    The claimed effect is “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration …”

    This is simply not true for patients with cholera.

  10. I think the rule is wrong; even if there are multiple risk factors, reducing one of them does indeed reduce the overall risk. Dehydration is not just a lack of water, but a lack of water is a necessary part of the diagnosis!

    A friend of mine working on a roof one summer fainted and nearly fell off of it, due to dehydration, which could have been prevented by the regular consumption of water.

    Secondly, is dehydration a “disease?” It isn’t caused by a virus, bacteria, or malfunction of any bodily system, and just because some diseases cause dehydration do not mean dehydration itself is a disease, it is just a symptom. We do not call sweating and sneezing “diseases,” we do not call a broken limb a “disease.”

  11. “The ridicule has been non-stop. But there are some important details being overlooked.”

    But of course. How can they reinforce their ignorance if they actually read the details? It is simpler to blovate about the nanny state and how silly government is than to try to look at what they are saying and why they are saying it.

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