What is Carbonated Water?
Carbonated water is a type of water that has been mixed with carbon dioxide gas under pressure.(1, 2) The infusion of this gas turns the water into a bubble drink, known as sparkling water, soda water, fizzy water, club soda and even seltzer water. Apart from seltzer water, the other types of carbonated water have a little bit of salt mixed in them for improving the overall taste.(3) In some brands, minor traces of some minerals are also included.(3)
However, there are some natural sparkling mineral waters sold under the brand names of San Pellegrino and Perrier, which are different. These natural sparkling mineral waters are captured from a mineral spring. These water contains minerals and some sulfur compounds as well and are also carbonated.
Tonic water is also another type of carbonated water that includes quinine, which is a bitter-tasting compound.(4) Tonic water also contains sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.(4)
Carbonated Water is Acidic
Water mixed with carbon dioxide is known to react in a chemical process to produce an acid known as carbonic acid.(1) This is a weak acid that is known to stimulate certain nerve receptors in the mouth.(1) This works in a similar manner as mustard. Carbonic acid triggers a slight burning and prickling sensation in the mouth that can be irritating for some and enjoyable for others.
The pH level of carbonated water is around 3 – 4, making it slightly acidic.
Many think that drinking an acidic beverage will make the body more acidic. However, carbonated water does not really make the body more acidic. The fact is that the lungs and the kidneys get rid of the excess carbon dioxide from the body, which keeps the blood at just a slightly alkaline pH of 7.35-7.45. This is regardless of what you have been drinking or eating.
Can Carbonated Water Cause Calcium Loss from the Bones?
There are many supporters of this belief that carbonated water causes calcium loss from the bones. A 2006 study done by the US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at the Tufts University conducted a study on 2,500 participants in order to determine what impact the consumption of carbonated beverages and colas have on the bone mineral density of your body.
The study found that sugary sodas had a positive association with low mineral density in women. However, other carbonated beverages, such as carbonated water did not have the same impact on bone mineral density. This is believed to be caused by the fact that sugary sodas also contain phosphorus in them, which is what increases the calcium loss from bones through the kidneys.(5)
What About the Effect of Carbonated Water on Dental Health?
The biggest concern that people have about consuming carbonated water is the effect sparkling water has on teeth since the enamel of the tooth is directly exposed to what little acid carbonated water contains.
While not much research is available on this subject, there is one study that has been done by the University of Birmingham, St. Chads Queensway, in the United Kingdom that has found that carbonated water damages the tooth enamel only a little bit more than still water. The study has also shown that mineral water is far less damaging to the teeth as compared to a sugary soda.(1)
Another study showed that carbonated drinks can cause severe damage to the enamel of the teeth, but this is only when there is sugar present in these beverages.(1) Without sugar, the beverage is unlikely to cause much damage.(1) The study showed how Gatorade, which is a non-carbonated, but sweet-added beverage, causes a substantially higher loss of enamel as compared to the diet sodas even.
The Department of Operative Dentistry and Endodontics at the Sichuan University conducted a review of several studies and found that the combination of carbonation and sugar causes severe tooth decay.
However, when you have plain sparkling water, it appears to have very little effect on your dental health. This is why you can safely conclude that only the sugary beverages cause dental harm.
If you are still concerned about your dental health being affected by carbonated water, then you should opt for drinking sparkling water instead. Also, try to rinse your mouth out with plain water after you drink sparkling water.
The Relationship Between Carbonated Water and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Drinking carbonated water is unlikely to cause IBS, but it could cause some gas and bloating.(6) This, though, could cause a flare-up of your IBS symptoms, particularly if your stomach is sensitive to carbonated drinks.(6)
Therefore, if you have IBS or other stomach-related issues and you are prone to flare-ups after drinking carbonated water, then it will be better for you to eliminate carbonated water from your diet completely.
How Does Carbonated Water Affect Digestion?
Carbonated water is known to actually have some digestive benefits. Let’s take a look at some of these.
Carbonated Water Improves Swallowing
Some studies have shown that sparkling water has the ability to improve the ability to swallow, in both the elderly and young adults.
A study was done by the Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre (MAHSC) at the University of Manchester looked at how different types of beverages affected the ability to swallow. There were 16 healthy participants involved in the study. Carbonated water was found to stimulate the swallowing nerves the strongest.
Another study also found that a combination of cold temperature with carbonation also further strengthened the beneficial effects on swallowing. This study was also done by the University of Manchester.
The Queens Medical Centre University Hospital in the United Kingdom did a study on 72 participants who were experiencing a persistent need for clearing their throats. The study found that drinking ice cold carbonated water caused a significant improvement in at least 63 percent of these participants. People who had the most severe symptoms experienced the maximum relief.
Carbonated Water May Relieve Constipation(1)
Drinking carbonated water has been shown to provide some relief in constipation. A two-week study with 40 elderly people who suffered through a stroke and had an average frequency of bowel movements, it was found that the individuals who drank sparkling water, had lesser constipation symptoms as compared to the individuals who drank tap water. Over 50 percent of the participants also reported a decrease in overall constipation symptoms.
There is also some evidence that carbonated water also improves the symptoms of stomach pain and other indigestion symptoms.
Carbonated Water May Make You Feel Full(1)
Carbonated water is known to promote a feeling of fullness after having a meal much more when compared to regular plain water.(1) Sparkling water also helps the food remain inside the stomach for a longer period of time, promoting a sensation of feeling full.
The University of Hyogo in Japan undertook a controlled study with 19 healthy young individuals, all women. The participants’ fullness scores were rated to be the highest after drinking 250 ml of soda water, as compared to still water. However, further studies are still required to confirm this finding.
Can Carbonated Water Cause Weight Gain?
While you should always opt for having plain carbonated water over any other sugary beverages, such as juice, soda or even sweet tea, a small-scale study done by the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the Birzeit University in Palestine, found that drinking plain carbonated water will increase the levels of the hunger hormone known as ghrelin in men.(7)
When the levels of ghrelin increase in the body, you will end up feeling hungrier and are going to eat more, eventually leading to weight gain over a period of time.(7)
However, more research is still needed to confirm whether this outcome is also applicable to women and on a larger population.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that not all brands of carbonated water are made the same. While some carbonated water is just water and air, some brands sell bottled seltzers and some include flavor enhancers that contain both natural and artificial acids, sodium, sweeteners, additives and other flavors.
All these ingredients could very well contain hidden calories along with extra sodium, both of which are going to be bad for your health. This is why you should read the labels carefully before buying carbonated water.
Can Carbonated Water Impact your Heart?
There are some studies that show that carbonated water could, in fact, improve your heart health, though the evidence on this is very limited. One particular study, done by the Department of Metabolism and Nutrition at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) in Madrid, Spain, found that in 18 postmenopausal women, drinking sodium-infused carbonated water went on to lower the levels of bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, lowers the blood sugar, and also reduced inflammatory markets.(8) The women also experienced an increase in the levels of the good (HDL) cholesterol.(8)
It is believed that drinking carbonated water may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next ten years by nearly 35 percent.
However, a significant amount of research is still needed to reach any conclusion on this topic.
Conclusion: Is Carbonated Water Good For You?
As of today, there is no substantial evidence to show that carbonated or sparkling water is bad for you. There is no evidence to show that it causes calcium loss from bones or that it is harmful to your teeth.
In fact, carbonated beverages have even been shown to improve the ability to swallow in people who have such issues, and also help in digestion, while reducing the constipation symptoms.
Being calorie free, carbonated water is preferred by many people over still water. If you enjoy having this bubbly water, then there is no reason why you should give it up. In fact, it may just be good for your overall health!
Schoppen, S., Pérez-Granados, A.M., Carbajal, A., Oubiña, P., Sánchez-Muniz, F.J., Gómez-Gerique, J.A. and Vaquero, M.P., 2004. A sodium-rich carbonated mineral water reduces cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women. The Journal of nutrition, 134(5), pp.1058-1063.
Cuomo, R., Grasso, R., Sarnelli, G., Capuano, G., Nicolai, E., Nardone, G., Pomponi, D., Budillon, G. and Ierardi, E., 2002. Effects of carbonated water on functional dyspepsia and constipation. European journal of gastroenterology & hepatology, 14(9), pp.991-999.
Simons, C.T., Dessirier, J.M., Carstens, M.I., O’mahony, M. and Carstens, E., 1999. Neurobiological and psychophysical mechanisms underlying the oral sensation produced by carbonated water. Journal of Neuroscience, 19(18), pp.8134-8144.