By Teddy Amenabar
Even a superhero should avoid drinking too much water.
To play Star-Lord, a fictional character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the actor Chris Pratt reportedly adopted a strict fitness routine and changed his diet.
But when a magazine article claimed that Pratt's nutrition regimen included drinking copious amounts of water, it alarmed some in the medical community and triggered conversations on social media about hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition also known as water intoxication.
A Vanity Fair article published last Thursday reported the details of the intense fitness and nutrition routine adopted by Pratt that included an alarming claim about water.
"Marvel also introduced Pratt to nutritionist Philip Goglia, who increased Pratt's caloric intake to 4,000 a day, plus one glass of water for each pound the actor weighed. 'I was peeing all day long, every day,' Pratt said. 'That part was a nightmare.'"
The Vanity Fair article was later changed to say Pratt was advised to drink "one ounce" of water per pound of body weight. Vanity Fair did not respond to requests for comment.
Chris Pratt has openly talked for years about gaining and losing weight for his roles in ‘Parks and Recreation,’ ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and Marvel movies. Pratt didn't respond to requests for comment.
The actor reportedly weighed in the range of 240 pounds (about 108kg) while filming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’
If Pratt really drank a cup of water (240ml) for every pound of body weight that would be the equivalent of drinking 15 gallons a day.
"That's physically impossible for someone to have and survive," said Ryan Marino, a medical toxicologist and emergency physician at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "That would be dangerous for any person, if not deadly."
On Sunday, Marino shared his scepticism of the Vanity Fair report on X, formerly Twitter, writing at the time that Pratt "absolutely did not do this." Marino's post now has more than 2.7 million views.
The Vanity Fair article is an excerpt of an upcoming book depicting the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios.’
What really happened?
Since publishing the article, Vanity Fair has added a correction indicating it stated "one cup" of water when it should have said "one ounce" of water. The magazine didn't explain the source of the error.
If Pratt instead drank an ounce (about 30ml) of water for every pound of body weight - as the updated Vanity Fair article states - that would be the equivalent of drinking about 1.9 gallons a day, based on published estimates of his weight.
Health experts say that would still be a potentially dangerous amount of water.
Marino said drinking one ounce of water for every pound of weight "sounds more believable" but it's "still, also, very risky" and not something he'd recommend.
Water is critically important but "the dose makes the poison," Marino said. Drink too much water, especially pure water without electrolytes, and you risk "diluting out" sodium and potassium in your body.
"Hydration is important but people overly hydrating themselves are not doing themselves any benefit," Marino said.
What's the right advice?
Drinking an "arbitrary" amount of water on a fixed schedule is "unwise, if not dangerous," said Arthur Greenberg, professor emeritus of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine, who co-wrote recommendations for treatment of hyponatremia for the American Journal of Medicine.
"The best guide to whether to ingest fluid or not is thirst," Greenberg said. "If you're thirsty, drink. If you're not thirsty, don't drink."'
If you're exercising or out in hot weather and you're sweating, it's "reasonable" to drink a little extra water.
But, the risks of hyponatremia come when you start to drink water faster than your kidneys can remove the fluid - which is about a litre an hour, Greenberg said.
"If you drink it fast enough over a short period of time, you can get in trouble," Greenberg said.
When there's too much water in the body, the cells start to expand, including the cells in the brain, which can cause swelling and potentially seizures, Greenberg said.
Mild hyponatremia causes few symptoms but more severe cases can lead to progressive neurological symptoms, including confusion, disorientation, seizures, coma and sometimes death.
Marino said "the most important thing" is to remember the "perfect bodies" of superheroes that you see on screen are usually not healthy.