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Leading article: Water - a drinking problem

We all know that, as a species, we will not get very far without water. But in the popular imagination, pure H20 has taken on some of the qualities of an ancient panacea.

Water prevents headaches, improves skin tone, helps you lose weight and makes a person generally healthier. Doesn't it?

Well, no, actually. Or, at least, not when drunk in great volume. Two researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have paddled through all the published scientific studies and discovered that there is no evidence to support any of the above beliefs about the health benefits of drinking copious amounts of water.

What is more, much of our recommended daily intake can come from milk, juice, tea, coffee, even vegetables and meat. From a medical perspective, the common notion that we need to pour litres of the stuff down our throats neat each day is simply false.

Perhaps it is a coincidence, but the proliferation of such myths has coincided with the rise of the bottled water industry, now worth some £2bn a year.

These companies profit greatly from our appetite for H20. And most make great reference to their product's "purity", despite the fact that there is no evidence that it is any purer than the considerably cheaper variety that comes out of the tap.

It is worth noting too that bottled water is also a good deal worse for the environment, thanks to transport emissions and waste production.

As Mark Twain once remarked: "Water taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody." We could perhaps do with a reminder of the part about moderation.