Amid the predictably gushing media coverage of the First Lady's visit to Watertown (Those arms! Eva!), comes this skeptical report from Politico, suggesting that Michelle O’s new water initiative might be .. .(ahem) all wet.
However, several public health experts contacted by POLITICO said they had concerns about the way the White House was framing the campaign. Those experts said the health benefits of increased water consumption are murky and there are no widely accepted criteria for how much water individuals should drink each day.
"There really isn’t data to support this," said Dr. Stanley Goldfarb of the University of Pennsylvania. "I think, unfortunately, frankly, they’re not basing this on really hard science. It’s not a very scientific approach they’ve taken. … To make it a major public health effort, I think I would say it’s bizarre."
Goldfarb, a kidney specialist, took particular issue with White House claims that drinking more water would boost energy.
"The idea drinking water increases energy, the word I’ve used to describe it is: quixotic," he said. "We’re designed to drink when we’re thirsty. … There’s no need to have more than that."
The story quotes other experts applauding the idea of drinking more water, but even some of them admitted that the science really wasn’t as definitive as Obama would have us believe.
"The campaign really is a no-brainer," said Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity researcher at at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. ..
However, Ludwig acknowledged that the upside to boosting water intake is still being explored by scientists. "There is strong indication, but there is not absolute scientific confidence, regarding the benefits of increased water consumption," he said. "Cause and effect remains to be established. There have been very few randomized trials."
As for Obama’s claim that one more glass of water a day will make a "real difference" to health, Ludwig said there is only "suggestive evidence" of that at the moment.
Oddly enough, Michelle won’t be able to count on her usual allies in the media to push her initiative.
In recent years, news outlets ranging from NPR to ReuterstoMother Jones have run stories suggesting the claim that Americans don’t drink enough water or need to drink, say, eight glasses a day, is an urban myth.
And even usually loyal academia appears a bit squeamish.
The First Lady’s office referred questions about the scientific claims to the Partnership a for Healthier America, which pointed POLITICO to experts supportive of the campaign. None cited scientific studies showing, for example, that a modest amount of extra water could boost energy or stamina in an otherwise healthy person.
As for the government’s own studies…
A U.S. Department of Agriculture advisory panel meeting in 2010 declined to establish a "recommended" amount of water in the diet, noting that the earlier "adequate intake" numbers were simply derived from the average water consumption of Americans.
"Except under unusual circumstances, there is no evidence that water intake is either excessive or insufficient," the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee wrote.