Back in the days when a referendum seemed unlikely, and the prospect of the UK voting to leave the EU unlikelier still, the tabloids leapt with rabid fervour upon every story with the smallest ability to paint the organisation in a preposterous light. As often happens in such cases, that light bounced back, leaving the tabloids to bask in the reflected stupidity.
It all began with a test case investigating whether it was appropriate for bottled water suppliers to make sweeping claims such as ‘water prevents dehydration and improves performance’ in their marketing materials.
‘Well, of course it does!’ I hear you cry. Everyone knows that if you drink water when you’re thirsty it will prevent you from dehydrating. However, that’s not strictly the case. In this instance the EU officials were being paid to nit-pick. It was their role to point out that there are other considerations to contend with; such as the fact that water alone just won’t do it for the severely dehydrated; for that you need electrolytes, such as sodium, added to the mix. Also, one cup – or bottle – of water won’t stave off dehydration in the long term; you need to drink regularly; chugging four litres on Monday won’t prevent you from feeling thirsty on Tuesday, or any other day that week.
The conclusion of the study then, came with a caveat recommending that although ‘’the regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration and of concomitant decrease of performance,” the EU did not endorse advertising that stated water alone could increase physical and mental performance and make the drinker healthier.
It’s kind of like saying that bananas are good for you, but you have to actually eat them to gain the nutrients.
The tabloids, however, went with a series of melodramatic headlines: “EU SAYS WATER IS NOT HEALTHY.” (The Express). “Now barmy EU says you CAN’T claim drinking water stops dehydration” (The Mail). Eurosceptic MPs were called on for commentary. And thus a myth was made.
I do love a good silly story, and this one made me chuckle. Water IS good for you, and it CAN prevent dehydration and increase concentration, but as the EU said, only if you consume it regularly.
The moral of the tale for me is, if you must read the tabloids, read them carefully… and take the headlines with a pinch of sodium.