Perrier and Club Soda used to dominate the carbonated water market. But in recent years—probably because we are now more convinced than ever that sugar is evil—new brands of carbonated water have slowly been taking over the shelves, one bubble at a time.
LaCroix, Voss and more recently Bubly (thanks to the Super Bowl commercial), have become a few of the more and more recognizable brands. Not to mention, everyone and his dog has a SodaStreams, and serve-yourself carbonated water taps are becoming par for the course at coffee shops and restaurants.
But have you ever wondered if all the carbonation you’re consuming is bad for your health?
On a basic level, all carbonated water is water that has been infused with carbon dioxide gas under pressure. Some brands have added sodium (and other minerals), like most Club Soda brands, but many don’t.
Carbon dioxide and water together produce carbonic acid, which stimulates the nerve receptors in your mouth and triggers that prickly sensation many of us seem to enjoy.
Is the acidity bad for me?
One of the concerns some have is that carbonated water is acidic. Its pH level is between 3 and 4, meaning it is slightly acidic. But rest assured, this doesn’t make your body more acidic, because your kidneys and lungs get rid of the carbon dioxide and help keep your blood slightly alkaline regardless of what you eat or drink.
What about my teeth?
Something else some of us have wondered is whether carbonated water is bad for our teeth—does the acid erode our enamel?
This 2001 study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11556958) doesn’t think so. It concluded: “Mineral waters appear to offer a safe alternative to more erosive acidic beverages and their complex mineral ion compositions may positively influence any dissolution processes at the tooth surface.”
Other studies have shown carbonated drinks do have a negative effect on enamel, however, it’s the sugar, rather than the carbonation, that is likely doing the damage. In fact, Gatorade, which isn’t carbonated, has been shown to be worse for the teeth than Diet Coke.
Does it hydrate me as well as tap water?
Though there isn’t huge amount of research on the topic, the answer appears to be yes. And dieticians and nutritionists tend to agree: Sparkling water is just regular water infused with carbon dioxide, so yes it hydrates you as well as tap water, experts agree.
It it bad for my calcium levels?
This fear seemed to have started because of some research showed that older women who drink various types of sodas have lower bone mineral density. Again, though, this likely came down to the sugar in soda, not the carbonation, so best we can tell is this is but a myth!
So if it’s not bad for you, then we might as well ask the question, ‘Is good for you?’
There is some evidence carbonated and sparkling waters might have some health benefits, specifically on digestion, relieving constipation and helping you feel satiated.
Some people have a hard time swallowing still water, especially older adults. There’s some evidence that carbonated water is easier to swallow (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26607248).
Second, this 2007 study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16995969) found that drinking ice-cold carbonated water helped people with a persistent need to clear their throats reduce those symptoms.
As for constipation, though this study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21551998) only included 40 elderly participants, it found that 58 percent of them felt constipation relief when they switched from tap to sparkling water.
Meanwhile, other research has suggested sparkling water can help improve various symptoms of indigestion, like stomach pain and gallbladder emptying. When these symptoms are relieved, constipation decreases.
Finally, I think we have all experienced that carbonated water helps us feel full, at least more than tap water. It appears carbonated water might also stay in your stomach longer than still water, helping keep you feeling full longer and making you less included to eat too much.
Bottom line: If you’re digging your SodaStream, or are getting into the cans of Bubbly on the regular—especially if it’s getting you to drink an appropriate amount of water and you find it easier to swallow—keep on guzzling!