Is it PMS or is it thirst? Is it lack of focus or dehydration? This article excerpt may have you rethinking.

In two recent studies, researchers at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory discovered the mental, mood and cognitive downside of even mild dehydration. Investigators determined that it didn’t matter if a person had just walked for 40 minutes on a treadmill or was sitting at rest – the adverse effects from mild dehydration were the same.

Mild dehydration is defined as an approximately 1.5 percent loss in normal water volume in the body. The take home message is that individuals need to stay hydrated at all times, not just during exercise, extreme heat or exertion.

“Our thirst sensation doesn’t really appear until we are 1 [percent] or 2 percent dehydrated. By then dehydration is already setting in and starting to impact how our mind and body perform,” says Lawrence E. Armstrong, one of the studies’ lead scientists and an international expert on hydration.

The importance for everyone to stay hydrated is a message that needs to be promoted.

“Dehydration affects all people, and staying properly hydrated is just as important for those who work all day at a computer as it is for marathon runners, who can lose up to 8 percent of their body weight as water when they compete.”

In the study, separate groups of young women and men were tested. Twenty-five women with an average age of 23 took part in one study. The men’s group consisted of 26 men with an average age of 20. All of the participants were healthy, active individuals, who were neither high-performance athletes nor sedentary — typically exercising for 30 to 60 minutes per day.

Each participant took part in three evaluations that were separated by 28 days. All of the participants walked on a treadmill to induce dehydration, and all of the subjects were hydrated the evening before the evaluations commenced.

As part of the evaluation, the subjects were put through a battery of cognitive tests that measured vigilance, concentration, reaction time, learning, memory, and reasoning. The results were compared against a separate series of tests when the individuals were not dehydrated.

The young women experienced mild dehydration which caused headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. They also perceived tasks as more difficult when slightly dehydrated, although there was no substantive reduction in their cognitive abilities.

Source: “Dehydration Influences Mood, Cognition.” By Rick Nauert.