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VERIFY: Is milk better than water for hydration?

A study says that other drinks with more sugar, fat or protein are better for hydration. But is somehting like milk really better than water for hydration?

SAN DIEGO — Many people drink water to stay hydrated, but according to a study out of Scotland, while water is great, milk is actually better.

Researchers at Saint Andrew's College gave participants 13 different drinks. The following list below shows in order how they ranked from most hydrating over a four hour period to least. You can see skim milk is at the top, whereas water is towards the bottom:

  • skim milk
  • oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte®)
  • full fat milk
  • orange juice
  • cola
  • diet cola
  • cold tea
  • tea
  • sports drink
  • still water
  • sparkling water
  • lager
  • coffee

They discovered that while water, both still and sparkling, does a good job at quickly hydrating the body, beverages with a bit more sugar, fat or protein keep us hydrated for longer.

For this story, News 8’s Shannon Handy turned to Kaiser Permanente Family Medicine Doctor, Heidi Meyer, who has been with Kaiser since 2011, to ask her to look over the study and verify those results.

Is milk really better than water for hydration?

According to Dr. Meyer, that's false. She says the study focused more on fluid retention, not hydration. 

"It might be a good choice for someone about to take a long hike and doesn't want to worry about bathroom breaks, but the most common advice is drink more water," said the doctor.

What about beverages like Gatorade? Athletes are often encouraged to drink them to stay hydrated because of electrolytes. Are sports drinks a good alternative? Dr. Meyer says yes, in some cases.

"We lose a lot of salt and electrolytes when we sweat," said Meyer. "If we replace that with just water, that can cause electrolyte levels in the body to drop, leading to cramps and nausea."

To recap, the study had some flaws. Only men took part and their body weight varied, according to Dr. Meyer. The study was only based on liquid retention - in other words, how much urine one produces after a certain drink. Dr. Meyer maintains water is always best, but if you'd prefer to limit bathroom breaks, one of the other beverages listed earlier is a good alternative.