Mild Dehydration Affects the Mood in Both Men and Women

March 13, 2012

Recently two large studies were conducted at the University of Connecticut, USA, to examine the effects of mild dehydration on cognitive function in healthy individuals. The results showed that mild dehydration had an adverse effect on mood as well as ability to concentrate in both men and women.

One study was conducted with 26 men and another with 25 women. Both studies examined the effects of mild dehydration on cognitive function using identical procedures. To measure mental function, scientists used tests of cognitive performance, mood and symptoms of dehydration.

Men and women all took part in two mildly dehydrated conditions and a fully hydrated condition which could be directly compared using standard statistical procedures. To assess the level of dehydration, also body weight was measured. Men were on average  1.59% and women 1.36% dehydrated. Most adults reach this level of dehydration one or more times during the course of a week.

The results showed that mild dehydration had an adverse effect on mood as well as ability to concentrate in both men and women. Both were more likely to feel fatigued and to have diminished cognitive performance when mildly dehydrated. Men were more likely to experience short-term memory degradation, but overall women were more sensitive to dehydration than men. For example, women were more likely to report a headache, fatigue, confusion and lack of energy. Women also felt moderate exercise was more difficult when dehydrated.

The studies demonstrate the importance of maintaining optimal levels of hydration during normal daily activities and during moderate exercise. Both men and women perform better and feel better if they maintain full hydration by regularly consuming water. In addition, vulnerable populations such as elderly people and children may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of dehydration on mood and cognitive performance.

Photo credits