Michelle Obama Receives Blowback … Over Water

A seemingly innocuous initiative to get people to drink more of the stuff has stirred up some skepticism.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
See more stories about...
Brian Resnick
Sept. 12, 2013, 9:06 a.m.

Yes, the head­line on this art­icle could have made a “Wa­ter­gate” pun. But we’re feel­ing re­strained.

Michelle Obama on Thursday kicked off the latest in her series of healthy-liv­ing ini­ti­at­ives. It’s real simple: She wants Amer­ic­ans to drink one more glass of wa­ter a day. That’s it. Seems reas­on­able, right?

“Drink just one more glass of wa­ter a day and you can make a real dif­fer­ence for your health, your en­ergy, and the way you feel,” reads a state­ment from the first lady.

If that sounds a bit like an in­fomer­cial pitch — it might be. Sev­er­al health ex­perts and writers were say­ing Thursday that the claim isn’t built on much hard sci­ence.

From Politico:

“There really isn’t data to sup­port this,” said Dr. Stan­ley Gold­farb of the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania. “I think, un­for­tu­nately, frankly, they’re not basing this on really hard sci­ence. It’s not a very sci­entif­ic ap­proach they’ve taken.”¦ To make it a ma­jor pub­lic health ef­fort, I think I would say it’s bizarre.”

Here’s the prob­lem, as The At­lantic‘s health ed­it­or James Ham­blin (an M.D.) points out: There is no daily re­com­men­ded in­take for wa­ter. A study from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion finds that while four cups of wa­ter is a mod­er­ate amount, “in­di­vidu­al wa­ter in­take needs vary wldely.” And the Mayo Clin­ic’s re­com­mend­a­tion is more qual­it­at­ive than quant­it­at­ive: drink enough wa­ter so you don’t feel thirsty and your pee doesn’t fluor­esce.

It could be that the first lady is shy­ing away from a cam­paign that ex­pli­citly tells people to drink less sug­ary drinks and re­place that Pep­si with a wa­ter (as it’s been proven con­tro­ver­sial to both in­sult an in­dustry and tell people what not to do). But per­haps the ini­ti­at­ive wouldn’t pro­voke as much skep­ti­cism if the White House did a bet­ter job provid­ing a com­pel­ling sci­entif­ic reas­on as to why more wa­ter is bet­ter.

Ham­blin relates this ex­change between a re­port­er and White House chef and first lady col­lab­or­at­or Sam Kass.

One of my col­leagues asked the ques­tion that was on my tongue: What are the health be­ne­fits you refer to?

Kass replied, “I think the sci­ence and evid­ence about hy­dra­tion abounds. Start­ing with head­aches, it leads to many more con­di­tions. But this isn’t a pub­lic health cam­paign. We think that be­ing pos­it­ive is most im­port­ant, not get­ting in­to all the de­tails about what a glass of wa­ter can do for you, is the mes­sage.”

To be fair, Kass is a chef, not a sci­ent­ist, and that was off the cuff. But if you’re a na­tion­al policy ad­viser on nu­tri­tion, and launch­ing a cam­paign whose sin­gu­lar ob­ject­ive is to tell 314 mil­lion people to drink more wa­ter, your cuff should have some data that says more wa­ter is bet­ter.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
3 days ago

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.