By now, everyone is well aware of the hazards of drinking soda, both sugary and sugar-free. But what about their less showy cousins: seltzer water, sparkling water, soda water, and tonic water?
There are claims that carbonation increases calcium loss in bones, causes tooth decay and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and can make you gain weight even without the calories, sugar, and flavor that are found in regular soda.
But how valid are these claims? Let’s investigate.
Calcium loss in bones
In a word: No. A 2006 study involving 2,500 people set out to determine what effects consumption of colas and other carbonated beverages had on bone mineral density.
While researchers found that cola beverages were associated with low bone mineral density in women, other carbonated drinks didn’t appear to have the same effect. This is due to the fact that cola beverages have phosphorus, which can increase the loss of calcium from the body through the kidneys.
As long as it’s plain carbonated water with no added citric acid or sugar, then the answer is no.
If you’re looking at soda and other carbonated beverages with added ingredients, however, the risk factors go way up. A 2009 case report states that the acids and sugars in these drinks have acidogenic and carcinogenic potential and can cause erosion of the enamel.
The process of carbonation is simply the addition of pressurized carbon dioxide gas to plain water — acids, sugars, and salt aren’t being added. It’s adding these ingredients that ups your risk for tooth decay.
While it won’t cause IBS, drinking carbonated water may lead to bloating and gas, which can lead to IBS flare-ups if you’re sensitive to carbonated beverages.
The bottom line: If you have stomach issues and experience flare-ups after drinking carbonated water, you may be better off eliminating them.
While plain carbonated water is a better choice than sugary beverages like soda, juice, or sweet tea, a small 2017 study revealed that plain carbonated water increased a hunger hormone called ghrelin in men. Even the beloved LaCroix may not be so perfect.
Essentially, when your ghrelin levels are high, you’ll feel hungrier and are likely to eat more, which can lead to weight gain. But more research is needed to confirm this outcome on a larger scale and in women.
It’s also important to note that not all carbonated water is created equal. While carbonated water is just water plus air, some bottled seltzers and flavor enhancers contain sodium, natural and artificial acids, flavors, sweeteners, and other additives.
All of these could contain hidden calories and extra sodium. Also, these additives can lead to cavities and weight gain over time, studies show, so read labels carefully.
Always read the ingredient list and keep a look out for additives like sodium and sugar to avoid negative consequences for your teeth and body. Be aware of the differences between the usual suspects:
- Club soda contains sodium, but seltzer water doesn’t.
- Tonic water contains added sweeteners and flavors.
- Flavored sparkling water may have added citric acid or natural sweeteners, along with caffeine and sodium.
Experiment with adding combinations of fresh fruits, herbs, citrus, or cucumbers to plain carbonated water to change up the flavor.