After Four Decades of Protection, Marine Mammals at Risk from Federal Budget Cuts
The year 2012 might be remembered for many things–the re-election of President Barak Obama, the legalization of marijuana, or the downfall of Lance Armstrong. But it also was the year that some of our landmark environmental laws turned 40. Here’s my end-of-year birthday homage to one of them. It’s called—Middle Aged Aquarius: The Marine Mammal Protection Act Turns 40.
Laura Lyell carves through the filmy sack surrounding the heart and cuts the aorta to release it from the cavity. The heart of a harp seal is unusually large she says–much bigger than it would be in a person of this size, or even other seals. “Here’s the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium and the left ventricle,” she explains, pointing out the four chambers of the heart, textbook obvious in the large specimen in her hand. Then she dives even deeper. Slicing into the left ventricle, she pulls at a collection of thin strands that look almost like the strings of a musical instrument. “And here,” she says, “are the heart strings.”
A former operating room nurse, Lyell spent 20 years bending over operating room tables in Florida trying to saving lives. Now she bends over a stainless steel dissecting table in Bar Harbor, Maine trying to understand death: namely, what killed this young seal.
Lyell is a volunteer with Allied Whale, part of the Northeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a collection of nonprofit organizations authorized under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to respond to animals in distress. This year is the law’s 40th anniversary, marking four decades of protections for seals, sea lions, walruses, whales, dolphins, polar bears, sea otters and manatees. Back in 1972 the Marine Mammal Protection Act was a groundbreaking conservation bill that passed Congress in record time and was signed by Republican President Richard Nixon. But the national outcry that drove these protections into law has dissipated over the decades, and funding cuts may weaken its impact. Lyell, for example, worries about the future of the Stranding Network—one small part of the Act but a key resource for rehabilitating injured animals. The Obama Administration’s budget for 2013 eliminated federal matching grants for facilities and staff that support the program. Congress reinstated the funds in a short-term spending bill that will carry the program for several months. But its fiscal future remains uncertain.
“The circumstances in which the Act was born are so different from the way things operate today,” said Frank Potter in a recent telephone interview. As Counsel for the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and the Environment, Potter drafted the bill that ultimately became law. “There was enormous pressure brought by the people concerned about the Canadian harvesting of the harp seals,” he said, and concerned about dolphins drowning in tuna boat nets.
Environmentalism was coming of age at the time. The first Earth Day had just occurred in 1970 with 20 million Americans participating in events around the country. But even in such a fertile climate marine mammal conservation had an unusual pedigree: it emerged from a strange convergence of 1950s Cold War research and 1960s New Age hippie mysticism. By the early '70s, this unlikely marriage had spawned a movement that considered highly intelligent and social marine mammals to be a lot like people–only better. For many people, the survival of marine mammals became more than an ethical issue. It became synonymous with human survival.
The central matchmaker in this union was John Lilly, an M.D. and neuroscientist who started his research career at the National Institutes of Mental Health during the Cold War. Using electrodes and other devices implanted in the brains of live monkeys, Lilly mapped brain activity by stimulating different areas of the brain and measuring the animals’ responses. His findings potentially could be used for human brainwashing and manipulation–a key national interest in the fight against Communism. After a colleague told Lilly that bottlenose dolphins have unusually large brains he shifted his focus, plugging electrodes into dolphin brains instead of monkeys’ and measuring their responses. In a life-changing moment for Lilly, a particularly vocal dolphin in his lab made a strange human-like sound during an experiment. With little actual evidence, Lilly concluded that the dolphin was mimicking the humans around it and trying to communicate. Despite his limited data, he shared his revelation with skeptical colleagues at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in 1958, introducing the idea that dolphins were exceptionally intelligent animals potentially capable of sophisticated communication with people. Newspapers across the country picked up his story and Lilly became a minor celebrity. The dolphin—after excessive electrical stimulation in the lab—died.
Lilly theorized that dolphins and other large-brained cetaceans, such as sperm whales, could think and communicate in complex ways completely alien to people. He speculated that their large brains, combined with sophisticated acoustic abilities and a carefree life in water, frees up mental space in dolphins and whales for “transcendental” experiences that people can only imagine–brain space that in people is devoted to the challenges of finding food, advancing technologies and navigating cultural conventions. Lilly quit his government job, moved to the Caribbean and started his own research facility, the Communications Research Institute, to figure out how to “think the way that dolphins do.”1 First relying on his own funds, and later supported by federal research grants (this time from the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and NASA) he began his new career as the scientist who talks with dolphins.
Photo by gygoebel from Creative Commons
Lilly’s impact and celebrity grew in the 1960s. He published his popular book, Man and Dolphin; appeared on The Jack Paar Show, and was featured in Life Magazine. His work influenced physicist Leo Sziland, author of the futuristic novel The Voice of the Dolphin (in which dolphins save the world from thermonuclear war), and inspired filmmaker Ivor Tors, creator of the 1963 movie Flipper. Lilly’s second book, The Mind of the Dolphin, hit book stores in 1967. In it, he reveals the unorthodox research taking place at his lab, including the experience of a young research associate who lived with a young male dolphin in a half-submerged apartment for two and a half months trying to teach it English. Years later, Lilly discussed how he used flotation tanks and LSD as other tools to help free his mind and relate to the dolphin experience.
Lilly believed that by communicating with dolphins, humans could learn to communicate with each other better and become prepared to communicate with extraterrestrials in the future. He characterized dolphins as polite and selfless creatures, compared to man and our capacity for selfishness, self-destruction and violence. And he struck a nerve by proposing that dolphins and whales be treated with the same principles of compassion and humanity that humans ostensibly afford each other.
Others soon picked up the thread. In A Whale for the Killing author Farley Mowat wrote of a fin whale trapped in a Newfoundland cove, and how deeply her plight moved him:
“So long as I live I shall hear the echoes of that haunting cry. And they will remind me that life itself–not human life–is the ultimate miracle upon this earth. I will hear those echoes even if the day should come when none of her nation is left alive in the desecrated seas, and the voices of the great whales have been silenced forever.”2
Astrophysicist Carl Sagan joined Lilly and other scientists to form the Order of the Dolphin and explore how to detect extraterrestrial life. Sagan later wrote:
“It is at this point that the ultimate significance of dolphins in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence emerges. It is not a question of whether we are emotionally prepared in the long run to confront a message from the stars. It is whether we can develop a sense that beings with quite different evolutionary histories, beings who may look far different from us, even ‘monstrous,’ may, nevertheless, be worthy of friendship and reverence, brotherhood and trust.”3
Amid fears of thermonuclear war and the accompanying desire for peace, love and harmony in the universe, some saw salvation in cetaceans.
The Navy saw salvation of a different kind. In 1963 it opened a marine mammal research institute at Point Mugu, California. There, it studied whale communication, dolphin sonar, sea lion health and more, and explored using these animals for military purposes. Although many of Lilly’s claims remain unproven, the Navy’s work, and that of other scientists, backed Lilly’s assertion that marine mammals are highly intelligent animals with sophisticated communication. In 1971 scientists Roger Payne of Rockefeller University and Scott McVay of Princeton reported in the prestigious journal Science that they had recorded vocalizations of humpback whales that were actually songs, describing them as “a series of notes … uttered in succession and so related as to form a recognizable sequence or pattern in time.”4 Capitol Records released an album using Payne’s whale recordings in 1970, called Songs of the Humpback Whale. And shortly thereafter recording giants such as Judy Collins and Paul Winter incorporated the whale’s haunting, otherworldly songs into their music.
The idea that whales and dolphins were somehow portals to a better world resonated with people, particularly with the growing counterculture of the 1960s and '70s. With their complex communication, apparent intelligence and social nature, whales and dolphins seemed to have achieved a free-spirited harmony that eluded human society. Conservation groups capitalized on this convergence of science and spirit. Defenders of Wildlife and other national conservation groups publicized the slaughter of whales, their possible extinction and the continued importation of whale products into the U.S. News stories sympathized with Flipper-like dolphins that struggled to escape the huge nets deployed by tuna fleets and drowned in the process.
But photos of Canadian hunters clubbing baby harp seals may have been the most compelling tool for mobilizing the public. The big black eyes and impossibly white fur of helpless baby seals pulled on people’s heart strings and moved them to action. America was riveted, and the letters poured into Congress.
Photo by Luke Bryant. Obtained through Creative Commons
All of that angst and awe landed on Frank Potter’s desk in 1971. It was Potter’s job to give Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) what he wanted: a bill that would respond to the public outcry and protect marine mammals. Other bills had been introduced–most of them seeking an outright ban on all marine mammal killing. But Dingell wasn’t interested in a total ban, considering it a simplistic solution to a complex problem. So Potter sought technical advice and expertise from biologist G. Carleton Ray at the Smithsonian Institution.
Ray argued for species management that allowed flexibility to reduce populations, if necessary, based on ecosystem health–a new concept at the time. Under this approach, marine mammals could be taken by permit after extensive public input if the governing agency determined that doing so wouldn’t harm the population or its ecosystem. In four days of hearings in September 1971, the subcommittee heard testimony from scientists and conservation groups such as the National Wildlife Federation and Izaak Walton League supporting the management approach, and from animal welfare groups such as the Fund for Animals and the Friends of Animals supporting a complete ban instead. Some of these so-called “protectionists” called killing any marine mammal immoral, citing Lilly’s work and Payne’s recordings as evidence. But the question was never if marine mammals should be protected. The only question was how. Given public sentiment, doing nothing was not an option.
In the end, the management approach made more sense to a plurality of House members. By writing a bill that focused on management and not outright bans, the committee was able to produce sweeping legislation that flew through the House and Senate and was signed by President Nixon on Oct. 21, 1972. The bill moved quickly out of subcommittee and through the House, passing in March 1972. A similar Senate bill soon followed. On Oct. 21, 1972, President Nixon signed the bill into law, little more than a year after the first congressional hearings. “It was a remarkably rapid development,” said Potter. “Congressional action doesn’t usually happen that fast.”
The harp seal on Lyell’s dissecting table this past summer in Bar Harbor, Maine wasn’t bludgeoned as a baby by hunters on Arctic ice. It was found dead on a pier in Ellsworth, Maine by local residents who called Allied Whale, part of the Stranding Network, to come investigate. “I have people calling me because they can’t sleep at night” worried about a seal they see on an ice floe, said Stranding Coordinator Rosemary Seton. Even when an animal is okay, people worry that it’s not.
Lyell understands that passion–it’s what keeps her committed to Allied Whale. When she first started volunteering she went out on assessments: responding to stranding calls and determining whether the animal was hurt and needed care, or whether it simply had hauled out on the beach, as seals often do. Over time, she ended up playing a leading role in dissecting dead animals to help determine the cause of death. The dissections—called necropsies—were a natural fit with her nursing background. “We’re mammals,” she said a few days after the seal necropsy. “The anatomy is very similar.” In the winter, she vacations at a whale preserve in the Dominican Republic where she can swim with humpback whales and their calves “on their terms,” as she puts it. But doing so remains controversial among conservationists. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act swimming with whales is illegal in U.S. waters. Regulations require that people keep their distance so that their presence won’t disrupt normal whale behavior. Because of this, Lyell kept this part of her life secret from her colleagues for a while. But each year she’s drawn back. “They look at you,” she says with a long pause. “It’s something that I can’t really put into words.”
Photo by Luke Bryant. Obtained through Creative Commons
Lyell and her colleagues never figured out what killed that young harp seal. Its heart looked healthy and strong, as did everything else. But they forwarded the data they collected to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration anyway, to join the larger national database piecing together how marine mammals live and die.
Without continued federal funding, the stranding program at Allied Whale will lose most of its support, much of its capacity to help injured animals and the ability to detect emerging lethal threats. Their struggle offers a glimpse into the broader ongoing effort to protect marine mammals. Much of that effort focuses on reducing marine mammal deaths from fishing gear, ship strikes and motorboats–some of the greatest threats today. Fewer dolphins are killed by tuna fleets than in 1972, but reducing this catch further remains a contentious issue. Harp seal skins cannot be imported into the U.S., but hunting remains legal in Canada. Other marine mammal populations remain below optimum levels mandated under the Act and some, such as the North Atlantic right whale, are critically endangered. Despite 40 years of protection, the right whale population remains at less than 400 individuals, threatened by ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. At those levels, each animal matters.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY pages for more related news on this topic.
Amy Mathews Amos is a freelance environmental consultant and writer, and a board member of Marine Conservation Institute.
1Lilly, John C. The Mind of the Dolphin. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York. 1967. p. 126.
2As quoted in Mowat, Farley. “The Trapped Whale” in Mind in the Water. Joan McIntyre (ed.) Charles Scribner’s Sons New York, Sierra Club Books San Francisco. 1974. p. 26.
3As quoted in McIntyre, Joan. Mind in the Water. Joan McIntyre (ed.) Charles Scribner’s Sons New York, Sierra Club Books San Francisco. 1974. p. 74
4As quoted in Payne and McVay “Songs of Humpback Whales.” Science. August 13, 1971. Vol. 173 (3997): 585-597. P. 590.
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By James Shulmeister
Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.
If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to email@example.com
What was the climate and sea level like at times in Earth’s history when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was at 400ppm?<p>The last time global carbon dioxide levels were consistently at or above 400 parts per million (ppm) was around <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14145" target="_blank">four million years ago</a> during a geological period known as the <a href="http://www.geologypage.com/2014/05/pliocene-epoch.html" target="_blank">Pliocene Era</a> (between 5.3 million and 2.6 million years ago). The world was about 3℃ warmer and sea levels were higher than today.</p><p>We know how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere contained in the past by studying ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. As compacted snow gradually changes to ice, it traps air in bubbles that contain <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology/article/enclosure-of-air-during-metamorphosis-of-dry-firn-to-ice/09D9C60A8DA412D16645E6E6ABC1892F" target="_blank">samples of the atmosphere at the time</a>. We can sample ice cores to reconstruct past concentrations of carbon dioxide, but this record only takes us back about a million years.</p><p>Beyond a million years, we don't have any direct measurements of the composition of ancient atmospheres, but we can use several methods to estimate past levels of carbon dioxide. One method uses the relationship between plant pores, known as stomata, that regulate gas exchange in and out of the plant. The density of these stomata is <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/095968369200200109" target="_blank">related to atmospheric carbon dioxide</a>, and fossil plants are a good indicator of concentrations in the past.</p><p>Another technique is to examine sediment cores from the ocean floor. The sediments build up year after year as the bodies and shells of dead plankton and other organisms rain down on the seafloor. We can use isotopes (chemically identical atoms that differ only in atomic weight) of boron taken from the shells of the dead plankton to reconstruct changes in the acidity of seawater. From this we can work out the level of carbon dioxide in the ocean.</p><p>The data from four-million-year-old sediments suggest that <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2010PA002055" target="_blank">carbon dioxide was at 400ppm back then</a>.</p>
Sea Levels and Changes in Antarctica<p>During colder periods in Earth's history, ice caps and glaciers grow and sea levels drop. In the recent geological past, during the most recent ice age about 20,000 years ago, sea levels were at least <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/292/5517/679.abstract" target="_blank">120 meters lower</a> than they are today.</p><p><span></span>Sea-level changes are calculated from changes in isotopes of oxygen in the shells of marine organisms. For the Pliocene Era, <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2004PA001071" target="_blank">research</a> shows the sea-level change between cooler and warmer periods was around 30-40 meters and sea level was higher than today. Also during the Pliocene, we know the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature07867" target="_blank">significantly smaller</a> and global average temperatures were about 3℃ warmer than today. Summer temperatures in high northern latitudes were up to 14℃ warmer.</p><p>This may seem like a lot but modern observations show strong <a href="https://journals.ametsoc.org/jcli/article/23/14/3888/32547" target="_blank">polar amplification</a> of warming: a 1℃ increase at the equator may raise temperatures at the poles by 6-7℃. It is one of the reasons why Arctic sea ice is disappearing.</p>
Impacts in New Zealand and Australia<p>In the Australian region, there was no Great Barrier Reef, but there may have been <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02537376.pdf" target="_blank">smaller reefs along the northeast coast of Australia</a>. For New Zealand, the partial melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is probably the most critical point.</p><p>One of the key features of New Zealand's current climate is that Antarctica is cut off from global circulation during the winter because of the big <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/tellusa.v54i5.12161" target="_blank">temperature contrast</a> between Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. When it comes back into circulation in springtime, New Zealand gets strong storms. Stormier winters and significantly warmer summers were likely in the mid-Pliocene because of a weaker polar vortex and a warmer Antarctica.</p><p>It will take more than a few years or decades of carbon dioxide concentrations at 400ppm to trigger a significant shrinking of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. But recent studies show that <a href="http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/521027/" target="_blank">West Antarctica is already melting</a>.</p><p>Sea-level rise from a partial melting of West Antarctica could easily exceed a meter or more by 2100. In fact, if the whole of the West Antarctic melted it could <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.695.7239&rep=rep1&type=pdf" target="_blank">raise sea levels by about 3.5 meters</a>. Even smaller increases raise the risk of <a href="https://www.pce.parliament.nz/publications/preparing-new-zealand-for-rising-seas-certainty-and-uncertainty" target="_blank">flooding in low-lying cities</a> including Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.</p>
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Investment in U.S. offshore wind projects are set to hit $78 billion (€69 billion) this decade, in contrast with an estimated $82 billion for U.S. offshore oil and gasoline projects, Wood Mackenzie data shows. This would be a remarkable feat only four years after the first offshore wind plant — the 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island — started operating in U.S. waters.
Corporates Shift<p>Helping to drive offshore growth, U.S. corporate buyers <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/cities-leading-the-transition-to-renewables/a-42850621" target="_blank">are increasingly relying on wind energy to power their businesses</a>. Walmart and AT&T are the two top corporate wind buyers, while 14 newcomers entered the wind market in 2019, including Estée Lauder and McDonald's.</p><p>"Oil and gas companies have jumped into the U.S. offshore wind market, where they can transfer expertise in offshore fossil fuel development to clean energy investments," says Max Cohen, principal analyst, Americas Power & Renewable research at Wood Mackenzie. Many international oil and gas companies have already recognized this huge potential and entered the US offshore wind market, including Orsted, Equinor and Shell.</p><p>"Given the recent tumult in oil prices, fossil fuel companies may more and more be looking to diversify their portfolios, particularly with assets that are contracted or offer returns uncorrelated with oil and gas," Cohen says. "Offshore wind is an area where they may have a comparative advantage, and they can then leverage the experience with that technology to make the leap to onshore wind, solar, and other renewable technologies," he says.</p>
East Coast leads the way<p>"There is enormous opportunity, especially off the East Coast, for wind. I am very bullish," said former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "Market excitement is moving towards offshore wind. I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm from industry since the Bakken shale boom," he said.</p><p>Offshore wind initiatives require excessive upfront spending: a 250 MW venture costs about $1 billion, based on International Energy Agency data, but as costs fall the tipping point after which costs fall faster gets nearer</p><p>"The opportunity has been created by Northeastern states seeing the large price declines for offshore wind in Europe," says Cohen. Onshore wind is historically the lowest cost renewable resource, but is at its most expensive in the Northeast, he adds. "But costs are falling slower than for other technologies," he says.</p>
Jobs and Coastal Revitalization<p>U.S. wind energy now supports 120,000 US jobs and 530 domestic factories. A study by the University of Delaware predicted that the supply chain needed to build offshore turbines to feed power to seven East Coast states by 2030 would generate nearly $70 billion in economic activity and at least 40,000 full-time jobs. An American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA's) March 2020 report estimated that developing 30,000 MW of offshore wind along the East Coast could support up to 83,000 jobs and $25 billion in annual economic output by 2030.</p><p>Having said that, not all of the jobs are American jobs. The offshore wind developers with commercial leases in the US are all foreign companies. There is growing interest from the shipbuilding sector in the Gulf of Mexico in partnering with offshore wind companies to provide services. As a result, some of the US oil trade associations have submitted comments supporting certain aspects of offshore wind. "However, it is unclear to what extent offshore wind developers plan to use US vessels and crew, and the existing projects did not incorporate US vessels or labor at all," Hawkins says.</p>
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The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and limitations of globalization. The crisis has made people aware of how industrialized food production can be, and just how far food can travel to get to the local supermarket. There are many benefits to this system, including low prices for consumers and larger, even global, markets for producers. But there are also costs — to the environment, workers, small farmers and to a region or individual nation's food security.
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By Joe Leech
The human body comprises around 60% water.
It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).
1. Helps Maximize Physical Performance<p>If you don't stay hydrated, your physical performance can suffer.</p><p>This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat.</p><p>Dehydration can have <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-tell-if-youre-dehydrated" target="_blank">a noticeable effect</a> if you lose as little as 2% of your body's water content. However, it isn't uncommon for athletes to lose as much as 6–10% of their water weight via sweat.</p><p>This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, and increased fatigue. It can also make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.</p><p>Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening, and it may even reduce the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress" target="_blank">oxidative stress</a> that occurs during high intensity exercise. This isn't surprising when you consider that muscle is about 80% water.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19344695" target="_blank"><span></span></a></p><p>If you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Losing as little as 2% of your body's water content can significantly impair your physical performance.</p>
2. Significantly Affects Energy Levels and Brain Function<p>Your brain is strongly influenced by your hydration status.</p><p>Studies show that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 1–3% of body weight, can impair many aspects of brain function.</p><p>In a study in young women, researchers found that fluid loss of 1.4% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration. It also increased the frequency of headaches.</p><p>Many members of this same research team conducted a similar study in young men. They found that fluid loss of 1.6% was detrimental to working memory and increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue.<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/mild-dehydration-impairs-cognitive-performance-and-mood-of-men/3388AB36B8DF73E844C9AD19271A75BF/core-reader" target="_blank"></a></p><p>A fluid loss of 1–3% equals about 1.5–4.5 pounds (0.5–2 kg) of body weight loss for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg). This can easily occur through normal daily activities, let alone during exercise or high heat.</p><p>Many other studies, with subjects ranging from <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/signs-of-dehydration-in-toddlers" target="_blank">children</a> to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-of-dehydration-in-elderly" target="_blank">older adults</a>, have shown that mild dehydration can impair mood, memory, and brain performance.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1–3%) can impair energy levels, impair mood, and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance.</p>
3. May Help Prevent and Treat Headaches<p>Dehydration can trigger <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/dehydration-headache" target="_blank">headaches</a> and migraine in some individuals.<span></span></p><p>Research has shown that a headache is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. For example, a study in 393 people found that 40% of the participants experienced a headache as a result of dehydration.</p><p>What's more, some studies have shown that drinking water can help relieve headaches in those who experience frequent headaches.</p><p>A study in 102 men found that drinking an additional 50.7 ounces (1.5 liters) of water per day resulted in significant improvements on the Migraine-Specific Quality of Life scale, a scoring system for <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine-symptoms" target="_blank">migraine symptoms</a>.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Plus, 47% of the men who drank more water reported headache improvement, while only 25% of the men in the control group reported this effect.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>However, not all studies agree, and researchers have concluded that because of the lack of high quality studies, more research is needed to confirm how increasing hydration may help improve headache symptoms and decrease headache frequency.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26200171" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking water may help reduce headaches and headache symptoms. However, more high quality research is needed to confirm this potential benefit.</p>
4. May Help Relieve Constipation<p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/constipation" target="_blank">Constipation</a> is a common problem that's characterized by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stool.</p><p>Increasing fluid intake is often recommended as a part of the treatment protocol, and there's some evidence to back this up.</p><p>Low water consumption appears to be a risk factor for constipation in both younger and older individuals.</p><p>Increasing hydration may help decrease constipation.</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mineral-water-benefits" target="_blank">Mineral water</a> may be a particularly beneficial beverage for those with constipation.</p><p>Studies have shown that mineral water that's rich in magnesium and sodium improves bowel movement frequency and consistency in people with constipation.<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5334415" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking plenty of water may help prevent and relieve constipation, especially in people who generally don't drink enough water.</p>
5. May Help Treat Kidney Stones<p>Urinary stones are painful clumps of mineral crystal that form in the urinary system.</p><p>The most common form is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-stones" target="_blank">kidney stones</a>, which form in the kidneys.</p><p>There's limited evidence that water intake can help prevent recurrence in people who have previously gotten kidney stones.<a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004292.pub3/full" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys. This dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they're less likely to crystallize and form clumps.</p><p>Water may also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but studies are required to confirm this.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Increased water intake appears to decrease the risk of kidney stone formation.</p>
6. Helps Prevent Hangovers<p>A hangover refers to the unpleasant symptoms experienced after drinking <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad" target="_blank">alcohol</a>.</p><p>Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration.</p><p>Although dehydration isn't the main cause of hangovers, it can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headache, and dry mouth.</p><p>Good ways <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-ways-to-prevent-a-hangover" target="_blank">to reduce hangovers</a> are to drink a glass of water between drinks and have at least one big glass of water before going to bed.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Hangovers are partly caused by dehydration, and drinking water can help reduce some of the main symptoms of hangovers.</p>
7. Can Aid Weight Loss<p>Drinking plenty of water can help you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-as-fast-as-possible/" target="_blank">lose weight</a>.</p><p>This is because water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate.</p><p>Some evidence suggests that increasing water intake can promote weight loss by slightly increasing your metabolism, which can increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.</p><p>A 2013 study in 50 young women with overweight demonstrated that drinking an additional 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of water 3 times per day before meals for 8 weeks led to significant reductions in body weight and body fat compared with their pre-study measurements.</p><p>The timing is important too. Drinking water half an hour before meals is the most effective. It can make you feel more full so that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/35-ways-to-cut-calories" target="_blank">eat fewer calories</a>.</p><p>In one study, dieters who drank 16.9 ounces (0.5 liters) of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks than dieters who didn't drink water before meals.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Even mild dehydration can affect you mentally and physically.</p><p>Make sure that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day" target="_blank">get enough water each day</a>, whether your personal goal is 64 ounces (1.9 liters) or a different amount. It's one of the best things you can do for your overall health.</p>
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