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Age Ageing. 1995 Mar;24(2):151-9.

Age-associated alterations in thirst and arginine vasopressin in response to a water or sodium load.

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University of Manchester, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Withington Hospital.


We have examined simultaneous changes in thirst, plasma osmolality and arginine vasopressin, after oral water loading or hypertonic saline infusion. The studies were carried out in the same subjects, comprising young controls aged 26.8 years (SD 4.8, n = 10) and health status-defined elderly people aged 72.1 years (SD 3.1, n = 10). Water loading caused significant falls in plasma osmolality (p < 0.001) and thirst (p < 0.001), but there was no variation with age. Infusion with 462 mmol/l of sodium chloride increased plasma osmolality significantly (p < 0.001), but there was no variation with age (p = 0.12). The perception of thirst during the osmotic loading experiment was recorded differently by the two age groups (p < 0.0001). However, linear regression analysis showed no age difference in the relationship between thirst and plasma osmolality during osmotic loading. During osmotic loading the relationship between the plasma concentration of arginine vasopressin in response to increasing plasma osmolality varied significantly (slope: p = 0.02; intercept: p = 0.02). Plasma arginine vasopressin rose more rapidly with increasing plasma osmolality in old subjects.

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