Is Drinking Cold Water Harmful For Health?

After walking for even a few minutes under the hot, sweltering sun, the first thing most people want to do is down a glass of cold water. To feel the water travel down the throat, leaving a cool feeling in its wake would be absolute bliss. However, I’ve often had people stop me from doing this very thing. They come armed with their own reasons and explanations to justify their claim, but the basic premise remains the same – cold water is bad for your health!

Cold Water and Digestion

Cold water is said to slow down a person’s digestion, which has been proven by a number of studies. While the exact reason has not been determined, there is one hypothesis that reigns above all, and most researchers agree. Having cold water or a cold drink reduces our body’s core temperature. It also causes our blood vessels to constrict. Therefore, the body spends valuable energy in bringing our core temperature back to normal. This energy could have instead been spent digesting the food we ate. Therefore, it affects our digestion by slowing it down.

Another thing that cold water or drinks do is solidify the fats we have consumed. Therefore, they aren’t broken down easily, as the body needs to spend more energy to do so. For the above reasons, it is better to consume room temperature or warm water during meals.

food and cold drink

Drinking a cold drink with a meal slows down digestion (Photo Credit : Dreamstime.com)

Cold Water and Exercise

Anyone who has ever done any form of workout will know that the first rule is to never skip the warm-up. Warming up before any exercise or physical activity is necessary, as it increases blood flow to our muscles, thus providing us with flexibility and more energy to spend. However, what happens when we start exercising? Our body starts heating up and we start sweating. The part we need to focus on here is that our core temperature begins rising. In people sensitive to heat, this proves to be a limiting factor in their workout, as they often experience fatigue and other symptoms of overheating.  Studies have shown that the gradual consumption of cold water can help in such times.

Normally, our sweat does the job of cooling our body down. Therefore, when the person also consumes cold water during a workout, some of the pressure is taken off our sweating mechanism. This reduces the rate at which the body will heat up to debilitating temperatures.

sweating

Consumption of cold water during exercise can reduce the core temperature (Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons)

Other effects of cold drinks

The consumption of cold water has also been linked to worsening migraines in people who are already suffering from the condition. This has been shown in some studies. Another thing that cold water apparently affects is our heart rate. It affects the vagus nerve, which is a cranial nerve partially responsible for the lowering of the heart rate. The vagus nerve is supposedly affected by cold water, which reduces the heart rate.

Colder fluids also leave the stomach faster, which allows for faster rehydration. With warm water, we tend to feel less thirsty, so we tend to drink less water. This is particularly important when we lose a large amount of water through perspiration. Cold water is also said to increase the metabolism, as the body needs to spend energy returning to our core temperature. However, the same can be said for the consumption of hot water as well.

Basically, the consumption of cold water has its pros and cons. While drinking water of any temperature is by and large excellent for health, we should take care to mediate the temperature according to the current needs of our body.

References

  1. Columbia University
  2. Penn State University
  3. Neuroscience Research Australia
The short URL of the present article is: http://sciabc.us/kkmZ0
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About the Author:

Mahak Jalan has a BSc degree in Zoology from Mumbai University in India. She loves animals, books and biology. She has a general assumption that everyone shares her enthusiasm about the human body! An introvert by nature, she finds solace in music and writing.

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