Why aging doesn’t make you thirsty

By • Published: March 19th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Gray hair. Wrinkles. Arthritis. And now, thirst.

Yep, scientists have discovered one more thing to add to the list of ways your body betrays you as you age. A new study shows aging fiddles with the body’s thirst sensors, making you less likely to drink even when your body needs hydration the most.

Australian researchers studied what happened when men in their twenties and men in their sixties were given saltwater to make them thirsty. The men were then allowed to drink as much water as needed to quench their thirst.

The older men tended to drink less, and brain scans taken during the study showed an interesting phenomenon… the areas of the brain that respond to thirst stayed active longer in the younger crowd. Translation? As we age, it takes less water to switch off thirst sensors, causing your body to miscalculate how much water it needs.

What researchers don’t know is whether the problem stems from nerve cells that send thirst signals or if the mechanism that translates these signals breaks down with age.

The study could help explain why dehydration is a common problem among the elderly. Experts say getting older also affects how well your body stores water and responds to temperature changes.

Adults need about eight cups of water each day. The researchers who conducted the study say establishing a schedule for fluids could help some elderly adults stay hydrated.

Now if only there was an easy answer for those gray hairs and wrinkles.