On Your Health

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Is Sparkling Water Bad for You?

That pop you hear is another can of sparkling water opening for consumption. You see it on grocery store shelves, in the office and on the dinner table. Yes, sparkling water is all the rage.

Sparkling water is one of the fastest-growing non-alcoholic beverage categories in the industry, with sales eclipsing more than $3 billion in 2019. As the popularity spikes and cracking open several cans a day becomes the norm, the question has come up if sparkling water can be bad for you. We decided to delve into that topic and provide you with the truth about sparkling water. Along the way, we busted some myths and rounded up some tips so you can continue to enjoy the bubbles.

What is sparkling water?

The latest influx of players in the sparkling water game has made this easy question somewhat confusing. In short, sparkling water is a type of carbonated water. You mix carbon dioxide with water under pressure to create bubbles or carbonation. The result is a fizzy drink Americans have become enamored with.

There are other types of carbonated water that can add to the confusion. Here’s a general overview:

  • Seltzer - This is simply water with added carbonation and most closely resembles your typical drinking water — only with bubbles. Seltzers can come flavored or unflavored. Many flavored seltzers are now called flavored sparkling water.
  • Club Soda - This carbonated drink contains added minerals and sodium, including sodium bicarbonate, potassium sulfate and disodium phosphate.
  • Mineral water - This type of drink comes naturally from mineral springs, containing minerals such as magnesium and calcium. 
  • Tonic water - The unhealthiest of them all, this type of carbonated water has added sugars and quinine to give it a sweet yet slightly bitter taste.

There aren’t any regulations on what brands can and can’t call themselves, which adds to the complexity in the products you see on shelves. Newer brands use sparkling water to describe their products even if it resembles a seltzer. Sparkling water, mineral water and club soda are natural, calorie-free drinks with no added sugars or artificial sweeteners.

The truth about sparkling water

There’s a reason why sparkling water and seltzer sales have skyrocketed. Sugar-laden beverages can increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke or heart disease. Soda is a prime example. Depending on the type, your favorite 12-ounce drink of choice contains anywhere from 10 to 13 teaspoons of sugar. Imagine that!

Let’s start with the basics. Regular tap water is still your best source for hydrating your body, and you shouldn’t outright cut it from your daily routine. But sparkling water is good for you and is just as hydrating — more on that later — if there aren’t added sugars, chemicals or preservatives. Those last few words are key.

In its natural form, seltzers or sparkling water are free of calories or artificial sweeteners. Make sure to read the fine print, though. Some beverages masquerade as sparkling water and contain similar additives as diet sodas.

By all accounts, drinking sparkling water doesn’t put you at risk for any serious health concerns. But, like with anything, consume these drinks in moderation. 

If there’s one potential holdup that has some validity, it’s how sparkling water may affect your teeth. Unflavored sparkling water is slightly more acidic than tap water due to the carbonation. Sparkling waters flavored with citric acid or acidic fruits, such as lemon or lime, have even higher acid levels.

No, your teeth won’t fall out from drinking sparkling water, but chronic and excessive exposure to acids can cause your tooth enamel to weaken and make you more prone to cavities.

You’d likely have to plow through a six-pack or more in one day for an extended period of time to notice any changes, but the American Dental Association recommends being mindful of your consumption. To err on the side of caution and protect your teeth over time, you can drink them with meals, in one sitting or with a straw so the acid isn’t in constant contact with your teeth.

Addressing other common myths

Aside from wondering if sparkling water will make your teeth rot, the internet is littered with many other questions about how or if sparkling water may harm your body. 

Here are a few of the most common questions, including several of which that are myths:

Can sparkling water make you gain weight? Unlikely, at least for now. This question circulated several years ago after a study of rats concluded gassy beverages led to an increase in the hunger hormone called ghrelin. The research is inconclusive because it doesn’t account for risk factors or any other characteristics that would have led to weight gain.

Does sparkling water weaken your bones? No. Colas, not sparkling water, have been linked to this issue. Colas have phosphoric acid, which can impact how much calcium your body absorbs. Carbonated waters don’t contain phosphorus. 

Will sparkling water cause digestive problems? There’s some truth to this. According to UChicago Medicine, carbonated water could increase gas or bloating, as can drinking through a straw. You may also find yourself burping more, but none of these make it a health risk. While sparkling water won’t increase your chances of getting IBS or another digestive issue, it can complicate the matter if you already have it. 

Is sparkling water a bladder irritant? It can be, yes. So can many other foods and beverages. Drinking too many carbonated beverages, coffee or even tea can irritate your bladder. Cut down on your intake to see if that helps.

Does sparkling water hydrate you?

This last part is critical and deserves its own section because many people wonder if sparkling water can dehydrate you. 

Dehydration? No. Hydration? Yes. The reason is simple: sparkling water is, after all, just water with added carbonation. 

The misconception that sparkling water isn’t hydrating likely stems from sodas that don’t exactly act as a thirst quencher. Sodas, or any other sugary drink for that matter, come loaded with fructose or high fructose corn syrup, which are fancy names for fruit sugar.

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, meaning it enters your body and breaks down into glucose faster than other carbs. In general, your body extracts water from cells to balance sugar levels in your bloodstream. In the case of digesting a sizable amount of sugar, your brain notices lower levels of water and alerts you to replenish the body through hydration. This is why you may feel the need to drink water after crushing a soda.

The carbonation in sparkling water can fill you up faster than regular water, which may make you consume less water than you would in each day. You may also find it more refreshing, thus increasing your daily consumption.

While we don’t recommend replacing your daily water consumption with sparkling water, you can still enjoy it in moderation without stressing about its health effects. If you’re considering drinking sparkling water and have any underlying conditions the added carbonation may impact, contact an INTEGRIS Health primary care physician for further guidance.

 

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