By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
New York Times,
June 28, 2005
THE FACTS Think of all the hours Americans will spend beside pools and
lingering on beaches this summer, counting the minutes since their last
meal to avoid violating a fundamental rule of swimming: never get into the
water on a full stomach.
The only problem, according to experts, is that the warning is yet another
old wives' tale that should be laid to rest. The theory is that the
process of digestion increases blood flow to the stomach - away from the
muscles needed for swimming - and leads to cramps, which increase the risk
Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at the New York University
School of Medicine, said that while swimming strenuously on a full stomach
could conceivably lead to cramps, for most recreational swimmers the
chances are small. And at least one study that looked at drownings in the
United States found that fewer than 1 percent occurred after the victim
ate a meal, she added.
But meals that include a drink or two are another story. In 1989, for
example, a study in the journal Pediatrics looked at almost 100
adolescents who drowned in Washington and found that 25 percent had been
intoxicated. One year later, a study of hundreds of drowning deaths among
adults in California found that 41 percent were alcohol related.