Biobehavioral variation in human water needs: How adaptations, early life environments, and the life course affect body water homeostasis

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Abstract

Body water homeostasis is critical for optimal physiological and cognitive function for humans. The majority of research has illustrated the negative biological consequences of failing to meet water needs. The human body has several mechanisms for detecting, regulating, and correcting body water deficits and excesses. However, variation exists in total water intake and how people meet those water needs as well as thirst thresholds and how well people tolerate water restriction. An evolutionary and developmental framework provides an underexplored perspective into human water needs by examining how adaptations, early life experiences and environments, as well as life course changes in health states and behaviors may shape these critical factors in body water homeostasis. This article first reviews biological and behavioral adaptations to water scarcity among animals and humans. It then examines human variation in water intake in a mostly water secure environment through the analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey dietary data and the link between water intake patterns and hydration biomarkers. Next, it reviews existing evidence of how maternal water restriction in utero and during lactation shape vasopressin release, thirst thresholds, drinking patterns, and body water homeostasis for the infant. Early life water restriction appears to have implications for hydration status, body size, and cardiovascular health. Finally, it examines how life course changes in health states and behaviors, including obesity, sleep, and parasitic infection, affect body water homeostasis. This article poses new questions about the plasticity and shaping of human water needs, thirst, and hydration behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23338
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics

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