Experts Say Your Sparkling Water Obsession Is Okay — In Moderation


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Often hailed as a healthier alternative to soda, sparkling water has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years. This bubbly drink is now available in every flavor imaginable and is a great way to stay hydrated especially if you’re bored of drinking plain water.

But as more sparkling water options fill the supermarket aisle, you may be wondering if it truly can replace regular tap water and if it’s bad for you in any way. We spoke with two experts to answer all of your sparkling water questions. Here is everything you need to know about sparkling water, including its health benefits and potential risks.

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What is sparkling water?

According to Yezaz Ghouri, MD, a gastroenterologist within the University of Missouri Health Care system, carbonated water is simply water (H2O) that’s been infused with carbon dioxide gas (CO2) under high pressure. This process creates a “fizzy” drink that can come in several different forms, including seltzer, club soda, sparkling mineral water and tonic water.

 

What differentiates these types of drinks depends on several factors, such as their carbonation methods, water sources and most importantly, added ingredients. The different types of carbonated water include:

  • Club soda: Minerals and carbonation are added by the manufacturer to boost the flavor and nutrition profile. You may find that club soda has a slightly salty taste.
  • Seltzer: Although the carbonation is added later on by manufacturers, what distinguishes seltzer from club soda is that it does not contain any minerals. Many seltzers come with natural flavors added.
  • Sparkling water: Sparkling water is naturally carbonated and comes from a spring or a well. Also sold as sparkling mineral water, this beverage can contain a variety of minerals including sodium, magnesium and calcium. Since sparkling water can come from different locations, the taste and quantity of minerals can greatly vary.
  • Tonic water: This carbonated water contains an added mineral called quinine which gives it a distinctively bitter taste. Brands tend to add high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners to tonic water to improve its taste.

Some brands of sparkling water may contain extra additives to improve their taste, including sodium, artificial sweeteners and flavoring agents, so it’s important to check the label before purchasing.

Sparkling water benefits

refreshing sparkling drink with ice cube on a yellow background

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There are plenty of reasons to sip on this fizzy beverage. Some of the health benefits of sparkling water include that it:

  1. Keeps you hydrated: Although sparkling water is carbonated, it still has the same hydrating effects as still water. “Sparkling water is just as hydrating as regular water and contributes to your daily water intake,” says registered dietitian Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, Deputy Director for the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab. “If you’re bored of regular tap water, incorporating sparkling water into your routine can change things up and help you hit your daily water quota.”
  2. Assists with weight management: “Every single cell in your body needs water to function, and staying hydrated plays an important role in optimizing your metabolic rate,” Sassos says. Most sparkling waters are calorie-free or very low-calorie, and staying hydrated with them can help ensure you don’t mistake thirst for hunger. Ones that don’t contain any sweeteners or added sugars can be a healthier alternative to sugary beverages.
  3. Improves digestion: Suffering from constipation? Sparkling water may help. Initial research on a small group of patients with indigestion and constipation found that both symptoms improved with carbonated water but not significantly with tap water.
  4. May support heart health: Early research in postmenopausal women found that drinking a liter of carbonated mineral water daily resulted in decreased total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. What’s more, the study further found that the beverage helped increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels.

When selecting a sparkling water, make sure to look for ones that are low in calories and sugar. Avoid options with high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings and sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. Also, keep in mind sodium levels and opt for club soda, seltzer or sparkling water over tonic water.

Sparkling water disadvantages

Too much of anything can be bad for your health, and the same is true for sparkling water. Though drinking a can or two a day should generally be okay, Dr. Ghouri warns against making sparkling water an outwardly excessive habit — or completely foregoing flat water for fizzy water exclusively. “I don’t think I would put a limit on it per se, but anything in moderation is better than going out of control,” he says.

Since sparkling water contains CO2 gas, the bubbles in this fizzy drink can cause burping and bloating symptoms. Dr. Ghouri also points out that some sparkling water brands may contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose which may cause diarrhea and even alter your gut microbiome. Because of this, he recommends staying away from carbonated water if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), particularly if you experience diarrhea as a recurring symptom.

studio shot of glass of club soda with slice of lemon on an orange background

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One of the biggest concerns about sparkling water is its effect on dental health, as the carbonation process introduces carbonic acid into the water — a substance that can potentially erode the enamel on your teeth. Since carbonated water is slightly more acidic than regular water, it can potentially have more harmful effects on your teeth — but even so, says Dr. Ghouri, the risk of damage is still fairly low. “Is it a bit more damaging than regular water? Probably… because you are exposing your teeth to an acidic solution. But the risk is really minimal,” he says. The American Dental Association says that sparkling water is “generally fine” for your teeth, provided that there are no added sugars or other additives.

    Another common concern is that the acidity in carbonated water is harmful to bone health and can even lead to bone fractures and conditions like osteoporosis. This association, however, seems to stem from research that showed that cola soft drinks — and not other carbonated beverages — may be linked with lower bone mineral density. This may be due to the phosphoric acid found in colas, which is not present in most carbonated drinks. Thankfully, research at this time hasn’t shown that sparkling water negatively affects bone health.

    The bottom line

    A glass of plain carbonated water is just as hydrating as regular water and can be a fantastic alternative to sugary sodas. You should always be mindful of any added ingredients in sparkling waters, especially sugar, artificial sweeteners and sodium, all of which can potentially have harmful effects on the body. “When choosing a sparkling water, try to prioritize unsweetened varieties with no added sugar,” Sassos recommends. “Some brands use a splash of actual fruit juice for flavor which is perfectly fine and won’t contribute any added sugar content.”

    There isn’t major evidence that plain sparkling water has harmful effects on your health. If you’re ever in doubt, though, you can never go wrong with turning to the safest and healthiest choice: regular still water. “Water — just plain old water — is the best form of hydration,” says Dr. Ghouri. “It’s really important to reiterate that.”

    This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.



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