Drinking too much water does NOT cause dehydration. Okyeame Kwame’s claim false

Popular Ghanaian rap music artiste, Kwame Nsiah-Apau, also known as Okyeame Kwame, has said that drinking too much water causes dehydration. He made the claim when he spoke on a podcast hosted by social media influencer, Kalyjay.

Okyeame Kwame’s claim has generated a lot of conversation on social media.

Fact-check Ghana has verified the artiste’s claim and presents the facts below. 

Claim: “You know they say drink water if you’re in a tropical place like Ghana. But too much water will actually make you dehydrated.”  

Verdict: Completely false

Explanation: Dehydration occurs when the body uses or loses more fluid than it takes in and the body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. 

A number of scientific studies carried out in tropical or sub-Saharan Africa prove that drinking a lot of water helps the body against dehydration (see here, here, and here).

However, Fact-Check Ghana did not find any evidence supporting the claim that drinking too much water causes dehydration. Rather, studies show it causes water intoxication/ water poisoning/ overhydration. 

Overhydration occurs when the body’s intake of water is more than it loses. It rarely occurs in people who have normal and healthy kidneys because they easily excrete excess water in the body, medical professionals say.

Is there anything like too much water in the body?

Water being poured into a tall glass.

Yes. Water intoxication often occurs in athletes, studies say. People may also drink excessive water because of certain medications that can cause excessive thirst such as antidepressants and diuretics. People with kidney problems and the aged, who may have an overall decline in organ function, could also experience water intoxication.

The health consequence of water intoxication is known in medical parlance as hyponatremia (low levels of sodium in the blood), which can be dangerous and even life-threatening. This comes about when sodium levels fall below the recommended level. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that sodium, as an electrolyte, is very important for maintaining blood pressure. It is also needed for nerves, muscles, and other body tissues to work properly.

Scientists say drinking too much other fluids can also cause watering down of salt or low concentration of salt in the blood. 

To further verify Okyeame Kwame’s claim, Fact-Check Ghana spoke with a dietician and two pathologists. All three medical professionals debunked the rap artiste’s claim.

“Water helps prevent dehydration. Water does not cause dehydration; it rather prevents it. So I am surprised he rather attributed water to dehydration.

“There’s no scientific evidence that points to the fact that when you drink more water you will get dehydrated. So that’s not based on science or facts,” Dr Maxwell Konlan, a dietician with the University of Ghana Medical Centre, explained.

Dr Konlan’s point was affirmed by Dr Elikem Kumahor, a chemical pathologist with Korle Bu.

“I think this statement is questionable. We drink water to rehydrate, therefore I don’t think drinking too much water can make you dehydrated,” Dr Kumahor said.

On his side, Dr Anthony Gyening-Yeboah, an anatomy pathologist, explained that by drinking too much water, one risks getting intoxicated and not dehydrated.

“Drinking plain water doesn’t make you dehydrated but excessive drinking of plain water can cause water intoxication, which is not dehydration. Similarly, excessive drinking of salt water also leads to hypernatremia which has its own consequences. In fact, increasing one’s intake of salt can result in hypertension,” he said.

From the above explanation, Okyeame Kwame’s claim that drinking too much water causes dehydration is completely false. 

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