Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Drinking too much water 'can be bad for your health': Benefits are a myth

It is said to help us prevent kidney damage, lose weight and increase concentration levels. But experts now warn that drinking eight glasses of water a day is not good for you after all – and could be harmful. They say that scientific claims behind long-standing government guidelines are worse than ‘nonsense’.

The NHS – along with leading doctors and nutritionists – advises the public to drink about 1.2 litres (or two-and-a-half pints) of water per day. However, a report describes the danger of dehydration as a ‘myth’ and says there is no evidence behind claims that water prevents multiple health problems.

Glasgow-based GP Margaret McCartney says the NHS Choices website’s advice that people should drink six to eight glasses a day is ‘not only nonsense, but thoroughly debunked nonsense’. She adds that the benefits of the drink are often exaggerated by ‘organisations with vested interests’ such as bottled water brands.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr McCartney also points out that research shows drinking when not thirsty can impair concentration, rather than boost it, and separate evidence suggests that chemicals used for disinfection found in bottled water could be bad for your health.

Drinking excessive amounts can also lead to loss of sleep as people have to get up in the night to go to the toilet, and other studies show it can even cause kidney damage, instead of preventing it.

Worryingly, Dr McCartney also warns that taking on too much water can lead to a rare but potentially fatal condition called hyponatraemia, which sees the body’s salt levels drop and can lead to swelling of the brain.

In 2003 actor Anthony Andrews, who starred in the ITV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, was hit by the illness after drinking too much water during rehearsals for a West End role.

Another doctor quoted in the article adds there is no basis for claims that water helps people to lose weight by suppressing their appetite. Professor Stanley Goldfarb, a metabolism expert from the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S., says: ‘The current evidence is that there really is no evidence. ‘If children drank more water rather than getting extra calories from soda, that’s good ..... [but] there is no evidence that drinking water before meals reduces appetite during a meal.’

About 2.06 billion litres of bottled water was drunk in Britain last year, compared with 1.42 billion litres in 2000. Despite this increase we still drink three times as much tea, and five times as much beer.


Morgellons Disease continues to defeat scientists

Burrowing bugs, delusions or a nervous disorder? Why can't medical scientists get to the bottom of Morgellons Disease

Nick Mann was convinced that something was burrowing into his skin. The 48-year-old father of two had been for a walk in the beautiful grounds of Abney Park Cemetery, down the road from his home in Hackney, east London.

It was sunny and he'd been wearing shorts and sandals. That evening, his legs began itching. Marks sprang up all over his body. "I just knew something was on me," he remembers. "Something digging or biting into my skin."

Over the coming days, lesions opened up on his body. Running his fingertips over them, he could feel something inside: it felt like spines or fibres, he says. He began to feel tormented. What were these bugs? How many were there? Would he ever be rid of them?

One afternoon, in desperation, Nick stripped naked in his kitchen and determined to dig one out as soon as felt it 'bite'. "I stood there for three or four hours, waiting," he says. "As soon as it did, I went for it with a hypodermic needle. There was one on my nipple."

He pales slightly. "You know, I can't get that out of my head. It was so painful. I dug the needle in and felt it flicking against something that wasn't me. And I just carried on digging and scooping." It took nearly four hours. "At one point my wife came in and saw blood dripping down my leg."

By the end of the afternoon, Nick had dug out three of the mysterious entities from his body. They were so small, he says, you could only see them when they moved. Having managed to transfer them into a jar, he proudly showed his wife. Karen peered into the pot. She could see nothing. Nick, however, knew he was on the verge of discovering what this strange and maddening condition was.

It was back in 2001 that the first modern-day reports of a mysterious "fibre disease" began to emerge from the US. When Mary Leitao's two-year-old son complained of "bugs in his skin" and subsequently broke out in lesions, the worried mother examined him with a toy microscope.

Under the lens, she found bizarre, many-coloured fibres. Leitao christened the condition Morgellons Disease, after a similar bizarre outbreak of "harsh hairs" on children that was reported in the 17th century. She was compelled to name it herself for a simple, but surprising reason: doctor after doctor dismissed her concerns. They said she was neurotic; that it was a figment of her imagination.

A decade later, Leitao's Morgellons Research Foundation claims to have been contacted by more than 12,000 families from all over the world. All of them claim to have the itch, the lesions and the fibres. But the vast majority of sufferers had been dismissed by medical professionals as being mentally ill, with a condition known as Delusions of Parasitosis, in which sufferers are falsely convinced that they are infested.

Despite this, in 2006, there was enough pressure put on the American government for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] to form a task force to look into the matter. "We're not ready to concede there's a new disease," a spokesman said at the time. "But the volume of concern has stepped up because a lot of people are writing or calling their congressmen about it."

One of the few academics to accept that Morgellons might be real is Randy Wymore, associate professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University. "I thought it sounded crazy," he remembers. "I knew it was thought to be delusional, so I asked some Morgellons sufferers to send samples of the fibres, figuring if it was delusional, they would never show up. But 48 hours later, Fed Ex packages started arriving. I borrowed a microscope to examine them. And they looked a little odd."

Wymore asked agents in the forensics department of the Tulsa police department for a second opinion. "Within about 30 seconds, one of them said, 'Uh, I don't think I've ever seen anything like this'." The fibres didn't match any of the 85,000 organic substances they had on their files. "I was both shocked and not shocked," recalls Wymore. "I already thought these fibres were kind of unusual, and this just validated it."

Wymore has now been working on the DNA of the fibres for five years. So far, none of the samples he has sent into the laboratory has proved to be anything mysterious. Results have included nylon, cotton, a human hair, a fungal fibre and a rodent hair.

Yet more evidence that Morgellons patients are merely delusional? World-renowned neurologist Dr Anne Louise Oaklander is not so sure. Oaklander, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, is an expert in itching. She believes that sufferers might have developed nerve disorders that are being misdiagnosed.

"Morgellons is not a disease with a unifying cause, but a constellation of symptoms that can be caused by different underlying diagnoses," she says. "In my experience, these patients have a severe itch disorder that's unexplained, and because itch is the sensation that we feel when an insect lands on our skin, or grubbing about among the hairs of our body, these patients make a logical conclusion: which is that there must be insects here, causing these insect-like sensations."

She explains that the brain can mistakenly experience the feeling of insects if the nervous system was damaged following shingles and sciatica, or by the growth of spinal cord tumours. "What often happens, though, is a physician does not find a skin disorder, so jumps to a psychiatric conclusion. But what they should be doing is looking for underlying neurological explanations."

So what all does this mean for Nick Mann? Are the fibres in his skin real? Is he delusional? Or does he have an undiagnosed nerve disorder?

In fact, Nick turned out to be an extraordinary case. While it's common for GPs to diagnose patients claiming to suffer from unexplained itching as delusional, this was unlikely in his case, because Nick himself is a GP. "I took the three mites I'd caught to our local Homerton Hospital," he says. "A technician mounted one on a slide, put it under a microscope and said 'Beautiful'. Everyone gathered around saying 'Ooh, look at that'."

It was definitely something. But they didn't know what. "They sent it to the Natural History Museum, which identified it within a day," says Nick, "as a Tropical Rat Mite."

Although museum experts doubted the mites could live on the skin, the GP has no doubt that is what they were doing. "What these mites do is go in through the hair follicles and find a blood vessel at the bottom. That's where they sit and that's what the 'fibres' are – their legs folded back."

Nick, who treated himself with an antiparasitic drug to eradicate the infection, can only guess that he picked up the mites walking in the cemetery. Despite the name, they are not exclusive to hot climates.

Nick believes it likely that many patients who claim to have Morgellons are actually infected by Tropical Rat Mites. However, he agrees with Dr Oaklander that this diagnosis is unlikely to explain all cases. "There doesn't appear to be a single explanation for it," he says.

Perhaps the mystery will finally be solved when the Centers for Disease Control release their report. Currently in the peer-review process, publication is thought to be imminent.



Wireless.Phil said...

Water intoxication:
It wasn't that long ago (2-3 years) a radio station up in one of our North-Western states (Washington or Oregon)held a contest. The participants were required to drink a large amount of water to win the prize (don't remember if it was a car or what, but thats not the point.)

Anyway, the young woman drank so much water that it killed her!

The radio station got into some legal problems because of that, plus, if I remember correctly, the young woman was a mother of a young child.

Wireless.Phil said...

Jan 13, 2007
Woman in water-drinking contest dies - US news

DJs fired after fatal water-drinking contest - US

Ten Fired After Radio Contest Tragedy