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The Water in You: Water and the Human Body
Think of what you need to survive, really just survive. Food? Water? Air? Facebook? Naturally, I’m going to concentrate on water here. Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water.
According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.
Each day humans must consume a certain amount of water to survive. Of course, this varies according to age and gender, and also by where someone lives. Generally, an adult male needs about 3 liters (3.2 quarts) per day while an adult female needs about 2.2 liters (2.3 quarts) per day. All of the water a person needs does not have to come from drinking liquids, as some of this water is contained in the food we eat.
Water serves a number of essential functions to keep us all going
- A vital nutrient to the life of every cell, acts first as a building material.
- It regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration
- The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream;
- It assists in flushing waste mainly through urination
- acts as a shock absorber for brain, spinal cord, and fetus
- forms saliva
- lubricates joints
Dr. Jeffrey Utz
According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz, Neuroscience, pediatrics, Allegheny University, different people have different percentages of their bodies made up of water. Babies have the most, being born at about 78%. By one year of age, that amount drops to about 65%. In adult men, about 60% of their bodies are water. However, fat tissue does not have as much water as lean tissue. In adult women, fat makes up more of the body than men, so they have about 55% of their bodies made of water. Thus:
- Babies and kids have more water (as a percentage) than adults.
- Women have less water than men (as a percentage).
- People with more fatty tissue have less water than people with less fatty tissue (as a percentage).
properties of water
There just wouldn’t be any you, me, or Fido the dog without the existence of an ample liquid water supply on Earth. The unique qualities and properties of water are what make it so important and basic to life. The cells in our bodies are full of water. The excellent ability of water to dissolve so many substances allows our cells to use valuable nutrients, minerals, and chemicals in biological processes.
Water’s “stickiness” (from surface tension) plays a part in our body’s ability to transport these materials all through ourselves. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream. No less important is the ability of water to transport waste material out of our bodies.
Are You Drinking Enough Water?
You’ve probably heard that the human body is made up of over 70 percent water, and that drinking enough every day is essential for everything from maintaining a healthy weight to energy levels and flushing toxins out of the body. But despite everything we know about how critical water is for human health, statistics show that almost half of American adults do not drink enough water on a daily basis. As many as 7 percent of adults admit to not drinking any water at all. So how much water is enough? And what really happens when you don’t get enough?
How Drinking Water Affects Your Body and Health
The outward symptoms and effects of dehydration are fairly obvious, from dry skin and lack of energy to brain fog and muscle cramps if you’re exercising without adequately replacing the water you are losing through sweat. But the effects of chronic dehydration reach all the way down into the cells, which, like the organs, need enough water to function optimally and remove metabolic waste from the body.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dark urine
- Feeling thirsty (fun fact: if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated)
- Bad breath
- Muscle cramps and fatigue
- Dry skin
- Low blood pressure
- Decreased sweat production or clammy skin if you’re exercising and should otherwise be sweating
- Elevated cravings for sweet, sugary foods (one of the ways dehydration can lead to weight gain)
Not drinking enough water is the most obvious cause of dehydration. But there are a few factors that can affect your hydration levels, as well as how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis, which differs from person to person and can even differ from day to day depending on your health and lifestyle.
Common causes of dehydration include:
- Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise and activity levels, and alcohol consumption
- Stress levels
How Much Water Is Enough?
You’ve probably heard the conventional wisdom that says eight glasses of water per day is the rule, but everything from your activity and hormone levels to your body weight can affect how much water you actually need. As a rule of thumb, most adults are advised to consume at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day, but certain fluids and water-soluble fruits and vegetables count toward your hydration allowance.
Keep in mind that drinking and eating diuretic food and drinks may require more water, and women may need to drink more during the menstrual cycle to compensate for elevated hormone levels. Start with a commitment to drink a minimum of four to six 8 oz glasses of water every day, and adjust accordingly as needed.