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We’ve Been Drinking Too Much Water

New study could pose a big challenge for bottlers
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For years people have been urged to consume eight glasses of water a day.

The practice is supposed to promote hydration and a host of other health benefits, particularly as people have shifted away from sugary soft drinks.

It’s certainly been healthy for the bottled water industry which last year sold 15.7 billion gallons of the stuff, as Supermarket News reported earlier this year.

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But now, the core recommendation of how much water to drink has come under new scrutiny, the BBC reported. In results published this week in Science, researchers at the University of Aberdeen said the water consumption recommendation was based on a miscalculation, according to the report.

That’s because people tend to under-report the amount of food they consume, and most food contains at least some water. As a result, people likely only need to consume 1.5 to 1.8 liters a day, rather than the recommended 2 liters.

If the change were widely adopted, it would potentially have implications for the bottled water industry which has been growing quickly as people have bought into the health benefits arguments for the beverage.

The big water bottlers, not surprisingly, include soft-drink giants Coca-Cola  (KO) - Get Free Report and PepsiCo  (PEP) - Get Free Report, as well as some independent names. Also on the list are European giants Danone and Nestle.

The 15.7 billion gallons of bottled water sold in the U.S. last year was more than peak sales of carbonated soft drinks, which hit 15.3 billion gallons in 2003. And projections call for steady growth, with consumption expected to rise 33% over the next five years.

To be fair, there have been significant improvements for people as the water trend has taken hold. Studies have suggested much of the growth comes from people shifting away from sugary soft drinks. And bottled water requires less plastic packaging, providing at least some moderation in the waste generated.

Given the size of the big water bottlers and their marketing expertise, it’s probably going to take more than a single study to get people to reduce their consumption anytime soon.