Body fluid changes, thirst and drinking in man during free access to water

Physiol Behav. 1984 Sep;33(3):357-63. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(84)90154-9.


To investigate whether human thirst and drinking during ad lib access to water occur in response to body fluid deficits, we obtained blood samples and visual analog scale thirst ratings from five healthy, volunteer, young men at hourly intervals and when they were thirsty during a normal working day. Although there were significant increases in ratings of thirst, pleasantness of drinking water, mouth dryness and unpleasantness of the taste in the mouth when subjects were thirsty enough to drink compared with intervening intervals, there were no concomitant changes in body fluid variables (microhematocrit, plasma osmolality and plasma sodium, potassium, protein and angiotensin II concentrations). Subjects drank mainly in association with eating and were not overhydrated as indicated by constantly hypertonic urine and significant tubular reabsorption of free water over the experimental period. The results indicate that during free access to water humans become thirsty and drink before body fluid deficits develop, perhaps in response to subtle oropharyngeal cues, and so provide evidence for anticipatory thirst and drinking in man.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angiotensin II / blood
  • Blood Proteins / analysis
  • Body Fluids / physiology*
  • Drinking Behavior / physiology*
  • Hematocrit
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Plasma
  • Potassium / blood
  • Sodium / blood
  • Thirst / physiology*


  • Blood Proteins
  • Angiotensin II
  • Sodium
  • Potassium