There is not today a book, an article, a blog or a TV show on the subject of living healthy and staying healthy that does not mention the famous eight glasses of water a day. The impact of adequate fluid intake seems to be more important and talked about than ever. Many people wonder, what beverages count towards the recommended daily quota? Do coffee, caffeine-based beverages and tea count?
Even though coffee and other caffeinated drinks are liquid alright and they do contain water, they should not count towards eight glasses of fluids per day for the simple reason they have the effect quite the opposite from desired - they actually remove some of the fluid content in the body, because they are diuretics.
Hydration and dehydration
A large portion of the human body consists of water. Water is the bare essential for survival. Not getting enough water can lead to serious health problems and potentially to death. The body loses a significant amount of water each day, through urination and perspiration. The amount of water lost must be coupled with the amount of water consumed. Not only that, the amount of water consumed needs to exceed the water lost, otherwise there is a risk of dehydration. Dehydration is a very serious problem that directly affects almost all body organs and functions.
Coffee and dehydration
Caffeine is the main active ingredient of coffee. It is responsible for the benefits people reap from coffee - increased alertness, wakefulness, focus, concentration and mood. Caffeine was found to have diuretic properties, meaning it stimulates the elimination of fluids from the body. Diuretics are indeed useful for certain conditions, such as edema or fluid retention.
There is a common belief that drinking coffee eliminates more fluids from the body that a cup of coffee provides. Even though it is true that coffee has diuretic properties, there is no research or study that would confirm this. In fact, under normal circumstances, coffee is in no way to be linked to dehydration. The only way coffee could cause dehydration would be if a person drank coffee and coffee alone, nothing else, all day. Since most people drink other beverages as well, like water, juice, milk and tea, the risk of dehydration from the coffee is next to zero.
It is therefore safe to say that drinking moderate amounts of coffee - one to three medium cups per day, does not increase the risk of dehydration in a healthy person. Coffee offers a range of effects on the body and mind, most of them beneficial, especially considering that coffee is the most significant source of antioxidants for an average American. Still, it is important to realize that coffee is not suitable for everyone - it is not recommended for pregnant women and for children. People who suffer from chronic or acute diseases and conditions should consult their doctor about the effects of caffeine on their health.