The hypothesis was considered that a low fluid intake disrupts cognition and mood. Most research has been carried out on young fit adults, who typically have exercised, often in heat. The results of these studies are inconsistent, preventing any conclusion. Even if the findings had been consistent, confounding variables such as fatigue and increased temperature make it unwise to extrapolate these findings. Thus in young adults there is little evidence that under normal living conditions dehydration disrupts cognition, although this may simply reflect a lack of relevant evidence. There remains the possibility that particular populations are at high risk of dehydration. It is known that renal function declines in many older individuals and thirst mechanisms become less effective. Although there are a few reports that more dehydrated older adults perform cognitive tasks less well, the body of information is limited and there have been little attempt to improve functioning by increasing hydration status. Although children are another potentially vulnerable group that have also been subject to little study, they are the group that has produced the only consistent findings in this area. Four intervention studies have found improved performance in children aged 7 to 9 years. In these studies children, eating and drinking as normal, have been tested on occasions when they have and not have consumed a drink. After a drink both memory and attention have been found to be improved.
Keywords: children; cognition; dehydration; elderly; hydration; mood.