Hydration and cognitive performance

J Nutr Health Aging. 2012 Apr;16(4):325-9. doi: 10.1007/s12603-012-0033-0.


A clinical link exists between severe dehydration and cognitive performance. Using rapid and severe water loss induced either by intense exercise and/or heat stress, initial studies suggested there were alterations in short-term memory and cognitive function related to vision, but more recent studies have not all confirmed these data. Some studies argue that water loss is not responsible for the observations made, and studies compensating water losses have failed to prevent the symptoms. Studies in children have suggested that drinking extra water helps cognitive performance, but these data rely on a small number of children. In older adults (mean age around 60) the data are not strong enough to support a relationship between mild dehydration and cognitive function. Data on frail elderly and demented people are lacking. Methodological heterogeneity in these studies are such that the relationship between mild dehydration and cognitive performance cannot be supported.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cognition*
  • Dehydration / complications
  • Dehydration / physiopathology*
  • Drinking
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / complications
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Risk Factors
  • Water / administration & dosage


  • Water