Is carbonated water bad for you?

Is carbonated water bad for you?

Brands like La Croix, Perrier and Pellegrino have become almost addictive alternatives to drinking water. The delicious calorie-free, sugar-free and sodium-free water give people the option of having something sweet without consuming an unhealthy and high-calorie beverage like pop. But is seltzer water bad for you?

“Seltzer water, or water that has been pressurized with carbon dioxide gas to produce effervescence [bubbles], does not differ from regular water if added flavors are not added to the drink,” says Rosemary Mueller, a registered dietitian at Advocate Medical Group Weight Management in Park Ridge, Ill. “Seltzer water has the same pH as regular water, but ideally should not be the source of your daily water intake.”

Mueller recommends reading the label on carbonated waters carefully, as the flavor enhancers can contain sodium, artificial sweeteners and sugary additives, not to mention acids in the drink can wreak havoc on your teeth.

When seltzer water is unflavored, the fizzy water contains an acid – carbonic acid – that gives it its bubbles, according to Mueller.

In a 2007 study, researchers exposed extracted human teeth to flavored sparkling water for 30 minutes. After testing the teeth against three flavored sparkling waters –lemon and lime, grapefruit and peach – researchers found the waters to be roughly corrosive as orange juice.

Another misconception is that seltzer water can weaken your bones. In a 2006 study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that cola was associated with lower hip bone density in women, but not in carbonated drinks like seltzer.

While plain seltzer water is a nutritional improvement over the high calories of regular soda, Mueller recommends everything be in moderation.

Some tips for better daily water intake include:

  • Make water the preferred (and sole) beverage of choice when you go to a restaurant.
  • Carry a bottle of water around with you.
  • Have a glass of water with your meals as a routine.
  • Make a habit of drinking a glass of water when you first wake up or an hour before you go to bed.
  • If you are craving food but not sure what to eat, try to drink water first. It’s possible for hunger and thirst cues to be mixed up.
  • If you don’t have accessible cool water at home or work, keep a bottle or pitcher of water in the fridge or carry an “insulated cooler” bottle with you.
  • A healthy alternative to plain water is adding lemons or cucumbers for added flavor.

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Comments

12 Comments

  1. Excuse me, but if seltzer water has the same ph as regular water, how can it contain carbonic acid? And why, ideally, should it not be the source of you daily water intake? This is stated without explanation.

    • Agreed. I’m very confused by what appears to be conflicting information. How can it be acidic and also be the same pH as water?

      I hope the author will clarify this for us.

    • Thank you for your comment, and we apologize for the inaccuracy in the article. Pure water has a pH of about 7; water from surface water systems can vary between pH 6.5-8.5. Carbonated water is created when carbon dioxide gas is dissolved in water at a low concentration, which creates carbonic acid, a weak acid with a pH level between 3 and 4, roughly between apple and orange juice in terms of acidity. Most dentists will discourage frequent carbonated beverage consumption because of the washing of additional acid over the surface of tooth enamel. This is more concerning for people with dry mouth or less saliva secretion. Some ways to combat this are to use a straw, to not sip the drink over a long period of time or to sip water alongside or after an acidic drink.

  2. Hey Andrea,
    The article doesn’t quite get it right. The source of carbonation is pressurized CO2, but when you dissolve carbon dioxide in water, they can react to form carbonic acid. But it’s a reversible reaction, so there’s always some amount of H20 and CO2 as well as some carbonic acid in the drink. They exist in an equilibrium with one another.

    • Thanks Matt for the comment. As we mentioned to Andrea and Ken, we apologize that there was a technical inaccuracy in the article. Pure water has a pH of about 7; water from surface water systems can vary between pH 6.5-8.5. Carbonated water is created when carbon dioxide gas is dissolved in water at a low concentration, which creates carbonic acid, a weak acid with a pH level between 3 and 4, roughly between apple and orange juice in terms of acidity.

  3. As a side question, does drinking bubbly water impede weight loss by expanding one’s stomach, which then causes one to feel less full? Bariatric surgery (excuse my spelling) I’ve been told does not allow bubbly as it could expand the ‘lap?’ band placed on the stomach. Some docs say that occasionally drinking bubbly is fine but too much will expand the stomach leaving one feeling more hungry otherwise. Anyone willing to chime in here on this? Very good topic of discussion for those that care.

    • Thank you for your question Scott. You are correct, carbonation is definitely contraindicated after bariatric surgery, because of its potential to expand the surgically-created pouch or contribute to dumping syndrome. I am not aware of many studies relating to post-carbonation-consumption hunger, but one possibility is that calorie-free, sparkling water alone does not increase blood glucose as food does, thus does not promote prolonged satiety, but I also doubt that the effect of carbonation is likely to make one feel hungrier afterward. There was one study completed on Japanese women who fasted overnight and then consumed either regular water or sparkling water. Researchers found that 900 ml of gas was released from just 250 ml (just a little over an 8 oz. cup) of sparkling water, so not surprisingly, the women’s stomachs (who had consumed the carbonation) distended slightly and they had the perception of feeling full, although they had not eaten. The women in the carbonation test group did not feel uncomfortable – so this effect of carbonation in the general (non-bariatric surgery) population may indeed help one feel more full – but only in the short-term.

  4. Thanks for the article, but it is very confusing.
    I regularly drink naturally flavored seltzer water in cans with no fake sweeteners, no added sodium and no calories or carbs. So, if I drink 2-4 12 ounce cans a day is that bad?

    Not sure I get the part comparing the corrosive effect of flavored seltzer to orange juice. It would be helpful if the article stated whether orange juice is a negative comparison. Thanks.

    • I also found this confusing. Just how bad (or good? )is orange juice in terms of corrosive effects? Is orange juice corrosive enough to worry about? We don’t hold drinks in our mouths for 30 minutes. What are the ‘real life’ implications?

      And how does that compare to “adding lemons” to plain water? Lemons are obviously very acidic.

      This is a great topic, and one I’m interested in as I pretty regularly drink one or two sparkling waters a day in summer (Le Croix brand, flavored or plain, no sugar, no sodium). But the article didn’t really give any scale of the problem. Am I OK with one or two a day, or not?

      I hope the author can expand on these issues. Unfortunately, the article isn’t really helpful as it stands now.

    • Thanks for your comments Steve and Ken C. Again, we apologize that there was a technical inaccuracy in the article. Pure water has a pH of about 7; water from surface water systems can vary between pH 6.5-8.5. Carbonated water is created when carbon dioxide gas is dissolved in water at a low concentration, which creates carbonic acid, a weak acid with a pH level between 3 and 4, roughly between apple and orange juice in terms of acidity. Although there is nothing wrong with pure, unsweetened fruit juice in moderation, the increased acidity of juice as well as other acidic foods/drinks can have cumulative effects on the enamel. Most dentists will discourage frequent carbonated beverage consumption because of the washing of additional acid over the surface of tooth enamel. This is more concerning for people with dry mouth, with less saliva secretion. One way to combat this is to use a straw, to not sip the drink over a long period of time and/or drinking sparkling water (or juice) with a meal, because this stimulates the flow of saliva. Regarding your question about frequency and amount of consumption, it is probably not an issue, but you might want to consult your personal dentist. At the very least, it’s advisable to use a straw. And dentists also advise waiting at least 30 minutes before brushing the teeth after eating or drinking high acid foods.

      • Just to be clear, are you saying that frequent consumption of even plain, unflavored seltzer can be harmful to the teeth (due to the presence of carbonic acid), or is this only for flavored seltzers?

  5. Thanks for the information!!!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.