Medical News Today: Is drinking cold water bad for a person?

Staying hydrated is vital for our health, but there is some debate about the best temperature for water to be when people drink it. Some advocates believe that drinking cold water can be bad for you.

Consuming enough water every day is essential for supporting all bodily functions, including digestion and metabolism, getting rid of waste, maintaining a normal body temperature, and keeping organs and tissues healthy.

In this article, we examine whether drinking cold water is bad for people. We also cover the potential risks and benefits of drinking cold water and whether it is better to drink warm or cold water.

Is drinking cold water bad for you?

Ice cold water in a glass
There is no evidence that drinking cold water is bad for health.

According to the Indian traditions of Ayurvedic medicine, cold water can cause an imbalance to the body and slow down the digestive process.

The body has a core temperature of around 98.6°F and Ayurvedic practitioners reason that the body needs to expend additional energy to restore this temperature after drinking cold water.

In the Ayurvedic tradition, cold water can dampen “the fire,” or Agni, which fuels all the systems in the body and is essential to health. Ayurvedic practitioners also believe that warm or hot water helps to ease digestion.

In Western medicine, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that cold water is bad for the body or digestion. Drinking plenty of water can help the body flush out toxins, aid digestion, and prevent constipation.

A small study from 2013 investigated the effects of drinking water at different temperatures in six people who were dehydrated, following mild exercise, in a hot and humid chamber.

The researchers found that changing the water temperature affected the sweating response of the participants and how much water they drank. The optimal water temperature in the study was 16°C (60.8°F), which is the temperature of cool tap water because the participants drank more water and sweated less.

The researchers concluded that drinking water at 16°C may be the best temperature for rehydration in dehydrated athletes.


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Risks of drinking cold water

Some research suggests that people with conditions that affect the esophagus, or food pipe, such as achalasia, should avoid drinking cold water. Achalasia is a rare condition that can make swallowing food and drink difficult.

A 2012 study found that drinking cold water worsened symptoms in people with achalasia. However, when participants drank hot water, it helped soothe and relax the food pipe, making food and drink easier to swallow.

One 2001 study involving 669 women suggests that drinking cold water may cause headaches in some people.

The researchers reported that 7.6 percent of participants experienced a headache after drinking 150 milliliters of ice-cold water through a straw. They also found that participants with active migraine were twice as likely to get a headache after drinking cold water as those who had never had a migraine.

Some people claim that consuming cold drinks and foods can cause a sore throat or cold. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.


Benefits of drinking cold water

Some studies suggest that drinking colder water during exercise may improve a person’s performance and endurance.

For example, a 2012 study involving 45 physically fit males found that drinking cold water during exercise significantly reduced the rise in core body temperature compared with drinking room temperature water.

A study from 2014 investigated the effects of different drinks on the cycling performance of 12 trained male athletes in a tropical climate.

The researchers reported that drinking an ice-slush beverage was better for performance than drinking water at a neutral temperature. However, they also concluded that the athletes achieved the best performance when consuming an ice-slush beverage that also had a menthol aroma.

Some people claim that drinking cold water can help promote weight loss. Although some studies suggest that drinking more water can help the body burn slightly more calories, there appears to be little difference between drinking cold and room temperature water.


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Cold vs. warm water

Person pouring hot or warm water from kettle into mug in kitchen
Drinking warm water can help improve circulation.

People may find drinking warm or hot water soothing, especially in colder months, while cool water can be more refreshing in warmer weather. Drinking warm water may temporarily improve circulation by causing the arteries and veins to expand.

Research suggests that the temperature of the water that people drink can affect levels of sweating and rehydration. For example, a United States Army study from 1989 found that drinking warm water (40°C) rather than cool water (15°C) may cause people to drink less, which can lead to dehydration.

A 2013 study suggests that the optimal water temperature for rehydration following exercise may be 16°C, which is around the same temperature as cool tap water.

The researchers reported that participants who consumed water at this temperature drank more water voluntarily and sweated less than when they drank water at other temperatures.

In a 2011 study, researchers concluded that drinking cold water at a temperature of 5°C did “not improve voluntary drinking and hydration status” in six Taekwondo athletes.

However, drinking water of any temperature is essential for staying hydrated, especially when exercising or in hot environments.

Summary

There is little scientific evidence to suggest that drinking cold water is bad for people. In fact, drinking colder water may improve exercise performance and be better for rehydration when exercising, especially in hotter environments.

However, drinking cold water may worsen symptoms in people with achalasia, which affects the food pipe. Drinking ice-cold water can also causes headaches in some people, particularly those who live with migraine.

People should make sure they get enough water each day, regardless of its temperature. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advise that females need to consume around 2.7 liters of water a day to meet their hydration needs and males around 3.7 liters. This intake can come from both foods and beverages.

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