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Some relatives of mine think that drinking sea water is good for health, but I highly doubt it. They claim that drinking small amounts of sea water daily helps people to be healthier (reference provided by Oddthinking).

Is this regular sea water consumption good for your health? If so, is there any scientific research about sea water and health benefits?

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What benefits do they claim? –  Oddthinking Dec 25 '12 at 13:47
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Welcome to Skeptics! We want to focus our attention on doubtful claims that are widely held or are made by notable people. I'm trying to help you provide some references to places where this claim is being made. Is this similar? harmonikireland.com/sea-water –  Oddthinking Dec 25 '12 at 14:25
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What quantities of water are we talking about? –  Christian Dec 25 '12 at 17:05
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Sea water is too salty for consumption as a sole supply of water. Is the claim about mixing it with fresh-water and consuming an isotonic mixture, or simply having a mouthful of seawater as a medicine occasionally? –  Nick Dec 26 '12 at 16:48
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I've heard the claim that people who are stranded at sea are most at risk of dying of thirst. –  Sam I Am Dec 26 '12 at 21:37

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

No, it is toxic, causing convulsions, dehydration and death in mammals.

The toxicities of Na+, Cl- and Mg++ ions in sea water and in artificial solutions were investigated. Convulsions commonly followed intraperitoneal injection of hypertonic salt or sucrose solutions in rats, but the convulsions due to sea water and NaCl solutions differed from sucrose or urea convulsions. Respiratory distress preceded death. Even in thirst, little sea water was taken voluntarily. Salt solutions or sea water given by stomach tube caused dehydration. Plasma Cl- concentrations reached the same low level after lethal doses by either route. Dogs and seals vomited sea water from the stomach. Seals were not more resistant than the other mammals. The lethal dose of sea water for rats was decreased by previous dehydration. Some adaptation appeared after repeated sublethal doses.

Toxicity of sea water in mammals by ALBRECHT, C. B., Journal American Journal of Physiology 1950 Vol. 163 pp. 370-385

It's a well cited 1950's article so I assume it's fairly authoritative.

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The quote you gave only concerns animals. That is a good way to make hypothesis about how humans will react, but we cannot assume that humans will respond in the same way as animals. Is there any evidence that sea water is toxic to humans? –  Mew Dec 27 '12 at 2:16
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Why wouldn't it be as humans are mammals? There's probably some other lesser research, however normally poisons cannot be researched on humans for ethical reasons. –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Dec 27 '12 at 3:04
    
Well fluoride has been shown to have neurotoxic effects in rats. Does this mean it will have the same effects in humans? –  Mew Dec 27 '12 at 3:07
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The article is about mammals in general. The only exceptions are marine mammals who have specific resistances which are also studied. –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Dec 27 '12 at 3:09
    
@Chris fluoride is a neurotoxin in humans as well, all depends on the dose. And those rats like in all such tests were no doubt given doses that are thousands or millions of times higher than they'd ever ingest during a normal life. Think the "study" that showed shampoo causes cancer, IF you wash your hair a thousand times a day with 10 bottles of shampoo per washing and let it soak for 10 minutes each time. –  jwenting Oct 6 '13 at 15:25

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