Even our brain needs to drink water

New studies and experts show that dehydration has a negative impact on some of our cognitive functions

MILAN – We all know that we need to keep hydrated for healthy skin and good digestion, but what many of us don’t know is that our brains can get thirsty too. The brain actually shrinks when we are dehydrated, making it harder to concentrate and meaning we’re more likely to tire or be irritable. These are the latest findings of the  New Zealand website Stuff.

WATER AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION - "Dehydration has a negative effect on some elements of cognitive function and, in particular, it seems to reduce alertness," says Professor Andrew Scholey, director of the Centre for Human  Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University in Melbourne. “Essentially, when you’re dehydrated, the equilibrium of your individual salts within cells and within the space between cells goes awry, and that can make subtle changes to some elements of cellular function, including in the brain."

THE STUDY – Another study published in The Journal of Nutrition says that even mild levels of dehydration can influence the mood of young, healthy women. The study observed two groups of women, some were exposed to mild levels of dehydration and others weren’t. “Mild levels of dehydration result in adverse changes in key mood states such as vigour and fatigue, as well as increased headaches and difficulty concentrating”.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY – “How do we know we’re dehydrated?” asks Professor Andrew Scholey. “Signs include darker-coloured urine, a reduction in alertness and an inability to respond or react as quickly as you normally would”. Professor Perminder Sachdev, co-director of the Centre  for Healthy Brain Ageing at the  University of New South Wales, says that fluid is drawn out of brain cells during dehydration, causing the brain to shrink.