Q. I drink at least eight large glasses of water every day to maintain good health. When I play soccer or tennis I force myself to drink a lot more.
I recently heard that you can drink too much water. What are the consequences?
A. People have been led to believe that they need to drink a lot of water to stay healthy, especially if they are exercising vigorously. But new research suggests that there are hazards to overdosing on fluids.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (April 14, 2005) revealed that marathon runners who drank more than three liters during a race were more likely to develop a complication called hyponatremia (water intoxication).
If sodium levels drop through sweating and excessive water intake, a person can experience dizziness, confusion, seizures or coma. This can even be fatal. The same complication can occur when parents force fluids on children with fevers from colds or the flu.
Drinking to quench thirst is usually a good guide to preventing dehydration. But don’t force yourself to drink more than you want. And don’t count on sports drinks to prevent hyponatremia.