Assessing hydration status: the elusive gold standard

J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Oct;26(5 Suppl):575S-584S. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2007.10719661.


Acknowledging that total body water (TBW) turnover is complex, and that no measurement is valid for all situations, this review evaluates 13 hydration assessment techniques. Although validated laboratory methods exist for TBW and extracellular volume, no evidence incontrovertibly demonstrates that any concentration measurement, including plasma osmolality (P(osm)), accurately represents TBW gain and loss during daily activities. Further, one blood or urine sample cannot validly represent fluctuating TBW and fluid compartments. Future research should (a) evaluate novel techniques that assess hydration in real time and are precise, accurate, reliable, non-invasive, portable, inexpensive, safe, and simple; and (b) clarify the relationship between P(osm) and TBW oscillations in various scenarios.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Chemical Analysis / methods*
  • Blood Chemical Analysis / standards
  • Body Water / metabolism*
  • Dehydration / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Specific Gravity
  • Time Factors
  • Urinalysis / methods*
  • Urinalysis / standards
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance