Is carbonated water good or bad for you?

Carbonated water is an alternative to plain water. In fact it is simply plain water that has had pressurized carbon dioxide gas added to it, which forms the bubbles that you see when you pour it into a glass. Schweppes, Canada Dry, S.Pellegrino and Perrier are well known manufacturers of bottled carbonated water.

Carbonated water is not just one type of drink but an umbrella term used to describe a number of drinks that effervesce. So are they all healthy to drink?

Types of carbonated water

Not all carbonated waters are created the same and with there being hundreds of brands, it can sometimes get a bit confusing. Here are the most popular types of carbonated water.

Seltzer water – this is plain water that has been carbonated artificially. In fact you can make your own seltzer water by using a home carbonation system such as a SodaStream. Since seltzer water contains only plain water and carbon dioxide, it contains 0 calories like plain water. The terms soda water and seltzer water are used interchangeably by some people.

Club soda – similar to seltzer water, club soda is artificially carbonated water to which salts such as sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate has been added. The salts are added to the water to neutralize the acidity caused by carbonation. The terms soda water and club soda are also used interchangeably by some people.

Sparkling mineral water – this is water that is obtained from a natural spring that contains dissolved solids. The carbonation in the water occurs naturally and most manufacturers do not add artificial carbonation to it.

Tonic water – this is a carbonated soft drink and is quite different from the other 3 mentioned above. It has compounds added, giving it a bitter sweet flavour. One of these compounds is quinine, which was added in high doses because it is able to prevent malaria but now is added in lower doses to enhance the flavour. Unlike the other three, tonic water has calories in it thanks to added sugar. A 12 fl oz serving contains around 124 calories which is only slightly less than the number of calories found in a can of Coke.

Is carbonated water healthy?

For the most part, carbonated waters such as seltzer water and sparkling mineral water are almost equivalent to plain water, differing only slightly because of carbonation. Unless neutralized, carbonated waters tend to be slightly acidic thanks to the carbonic acid that forms when water reacts with carbon dioxide.

Seltzer and sparkling mineral water hydrate your body just as well as plain water and as you probably already know, it is extremely important to stay hydrated.

There have been a number of studies carried out on the effects of carbonated water on the body.

This study found that the consumption of carbonated water can help dyspepsia and constipation. 21 patients were split into 2 groups, 10 of whom drank carbonated water and the other 11 who drank plain tap water. Both dyspepsia and constipation improved significantly in the carbonated water group compared to the still water group.

There have been worries that carbonation increases calcium loss in bones and could lead to osteoporosis. However this is only true for colas and not other carbonated beverages according to this study. Another study found similar results.

Because carbonated water is slightly acidic, it might cause damage to your teeth. This study found that flavoured sparkling waters have similar corrosive effects to orange juice, which can soften tooth enamel. This study however found that mineral waters are not erosive. Dentists suggest that as long as you take good care of your teeth, most types of carbonated water are fine to drink, so long as they do not have added sugar (like tonic water). Erosion generally happens when teeth are exposed to acidic carbonated drinks for a long period of time.

Drinking carbonated water can make you feel bloated thanks to the excess gas filling up in your stomach. This could be a potential problem if you have stomach upsets and should be avoided. However for some people this might prove to be advantageous. Drinking plain water has been shown to play a part in helping people lose weight. The bloated feeling you get from drinking carbonated water might lead you to eat less, thereby assisting further weight loss.

Some general tips

  • Stay away from tonic water and read labels of other carbonated waters carefully. They are not all created equal and certain ones such as tonic water have a lot of added sugar, which is neither beneficial to your general health nor your waistline. If you are going to drink carbonated water, opt for a brand that has only carbon dioxide added to it and not much else. Alternatively make your own at home using a home carbonation system.
  • Don’t drink carbonated water if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome because the gas might cause painful bloating. If you have any other stomach related issues, speak to a doctor first.
  • Make sure you drink enough plain water. Yes it might not be the most exciting, but it is the healthiest drink on the planet. You can enjoy carbonated water but pure water really is your best option. If you find plain water boring, try spice it up by adding cut up fruits such as oranges and watermelon to it.
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