What drives us to drink?
Thirst Like hunger, thirst is a biological drive that prevents us from dehydrating, and ensures that the 70% of the human body that is made up of fluid is maintained. Any decrease of body fluid by more than 5% can cause major physiological problems – and ultimately even death. As a result, humans can’t last for more than a couple of days under normal conditions without some fluid intake (where we can last for several months without food). Genuine thirst however, is satisfied by water. Yet many people go for years without drinking water. Obviously other drivers are involved in what drinks we choose.
Taste Again as with food, taste is a driver of consumption. As fat and sugar are nutrients designed to make us consume more (to get energy for survival), drinks that are loaded with either of these (e.g. dairy based, sugar sweetened), will usually be preferred over water. If taste is an issue modern technology can provide an answer – artificial sweeteners can add the taste, but no extra energy.
Mind alteration While there’s usually little genuine thirst involved in the craving for alcohol, kava and other mind altering drinks, these do provide some fluid to the body. And while these seem to have no real biological (although they may have a psychological and/or sociological) purpose, mind altering fluids have been consumed in some form by most cultures throughout the ages. The need may be, as some drug experts claim, to alter our normal form of consciousness from time to time. Fortunately, most mind altering drugs (e.g. alcohol), although high in energy, are disposed of quickly in the body. If the accompanying diet is controlled, they should not be a problem for weight (although they could cause other problems).
Conditioning This is the big one which is often overlooked when trying to manage body weight. By opportunistically consuming a high energy, tasty drink when genuinely thirsty, the odds of craving this when thirsty the next time are increased. Drinking full strength soft drink after a dehydrating game of sport for example, increases the chances of that drink being preferred over water the next time thirst strikes. In this case (as often occurs in children who are given soft drink or fruit juice when thirsty, the only real option is to go ‘cold turkey’ and stick to water or diet drinks when genuine thirst strikes.
Arousal Drinks like tea or coffee or those with added caffeine can aid arousal and are therefore often preferred when a ‘pick-me-up’ is required. In their ‘raw’ state, tea and coffee add no calories to water, hence these can be useful for managing body weight. The addition of caffeine to high-energy drinks on the other hand is not so likely to have the same benign effect on body weight.
Advertising/marketing Finally, beverage choice is often based on the images associated with that drink. How else could a dirty black fluid with some coca stimulant make you feel young, sexy and as if you’re having a great time when you drink it – even if you’re not thirsty and feeling miserable at the time? Consciousness of advertising messages and what is being done to persuade you to pay money for, and pick up that climate-changing can of soft drink, instead of grabbing a glass of water from the tap, is about the only thing that can help keep the weight off. Meanwhile … all this speculation is making the Professor thirsty. Now where’s that double scotch that makes men especially attractive with the soda, orange juice and a dash of genuine H2O?
Dr Garry Egger aka Prof Trim
For more information on weight loss for men, check out Professor Trim.