Nutrition Today

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Nutrition Today:
doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e3181fe1747

Hydration and Human Cognition

Lieberman, Harris R. PhD

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Although adequate hydration is essential for optimal brain function, research addressing relationships between hydration status and human behavior and cognitive function is limited. The few published studies in this area are inconclusive and contradictory. The impact of variations in hydration status, which can be substantial as humans go about their daily activities, on brain function and behavior is not known and may impact quality of life. Furthermore, vulnerable populations such as children, elderly people, and individuals with illnesses may be at higher risk of degradation in cognitive function from dehydration. A variety of difficult methodological issues have impeded progress in this area. For example, there are several methods to achieve dehydration in humans, each with different strengths and weakness. Accurately assessing and modifying human hydration status and consistently achieving desired levels of dehydration in a controlled manner are problematic. It is difficult to select appropriate behavioral tasks that detect relatively subtle changes in cognitive performance and mood resulting from moderate levels of dehydration. Generating experimental designs that include hydrated control conditions and double-blind testing poses substantial challenges to investigators. Additional well-controlled research is essential if progress is to be made and understanding gained of the effects of dehydration on cognitive function. Key elements of research should include accurate methods of assessing and modifying hydration state, an adequate number of subjects, appropriate behavioral tasks to detect subtle effects of dehydration, and inclusion of rigorous control conditions

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.


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