Whether you’ve had fatigue or even dry skin, you’ve probably been told to drink more water as a cure. But this advice comes from decades-old guidance… and may have no scientific basis.

In the early 19th Century, people had to be close to death before deigning to drink water. Only those “reduced to the last stage of poverty satisfy their thirst with water”, according to Vincent Priessnitz, the founder of hydropathy, otherwise known as “the water cure”. Many people, he added, had never drunk more than half a pint of plain water in one sitting.

How times have changed. Adults in the UK today are consuming more water now than in recent years, while in the US, sales of bottled water recently surpassed sales of soda. We’ve been bombarded with messages telling us that drinking litres of water every day is the secret to good health, more energy and great skin, and that it will make us lose weight and avoid cancer.

Commuters are encouraged to take bottles of water onto the London Underground, pupils are advised to bring water into their lessons and few office meetings can commence without a giant jug of water sitting in the middle of the desk.

Fuelling this appetite for water is the “8×8 rule”: the unofficial advice recommending we drink eight 240ml glasses of water per day, totalling just under two litres, on top of any other drinks. That “rule”, however, isn’t backed by scientific findings – nor do UK or EU official guidelines say we should be drinking this much.

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