Journal of Applied Physiology


We examined osmotic control of thirst and free water clearance in healthy older (65+, n = 10) and younger (Y, n = 6) subjects during a 3-h rehydration period after an approximately 2.4% decrease in body weight. Plasma volume (PV), plasma osmolality (Posm), renal function, and thirst were measured before and after dehydration and during rehydration. In 65+, baseline PV was lower (43.1 +/- 1.6 vs. 48.1 +/- 2.5 ml/kg), Posm was higher (287 +/- 1 vs. 281 +/- 2 mosmol/kgH2O), and perceived thirst was lower than in Y. During dehydration, the osmotic threshold for increased thirst was shifted to a higher Posm in 65+. Total fluid intake was greater in Y than in 65+ (16.6 +/- 4.1 vs. 8.9 +/- 2.0 ml/kg); however, the relation between thirst and the rate of fluid intake was identical. Thus the blunted rehydration in 65+ is related to a lower overall sensation of thirst. The stimulus-response characteristics of osmotic control of free water clearance was similar in 65+ and Y; however, 65+ operated around a higher Posm and on a less-steep portion of the stimulus-response curve. These data support the hypothesis that the hyperosmotic hypovolemic state of healthy older individuals is not a result of a simple water deficit but represents a shift in the operating point for control of body fluid volume and composition.