Ed Asner once portrayed a retiring nuclear power plant manager in a skit for Saturday Night Live.
"Remember," he told his colleagues on the way out the door, "you can't put too much water in a nuclear reactor."
After he left, his co-workers panicked - not knowing whether he meant to put in a lot of water, or not to. You just couldn't tell from what he said.
That's the untenable position the modern consumer is in. With all the contradictory scientific and dietetic news we get day-to-day, it's impossible to know what to do to stave off dietary disaster.
Now, on top of the fact that we don't know how much water to put in a nuclear reactor, we have no idea how much to put in our own bodies.
For years after coaches told overheated athletes to take salt tablets instead of water, lest they become "water logged," we were told instead to drink more - eight glasses a day, in fact.
Now comes word that that's unnecessary, and perhaps even unhealthy in some cases?
It's enough to drive you to drink!
A review in the American Journal of Physiology finds no scientific basis for the eight-glass advisory. And now the national nutrition standards are being revisited to see if a particular fluid intake level should be recommended.
We'll see. But how long before the standard is turned on its head? And besides, you would think fluid requirements would differ from person to person, and even day to day or hour to hour, depending on one's size, age, health, activity level, the weather and so on.
The trick, perhaps, is just to listen to your body.
And to about half the studies that come out.