Sparkling water's spotlight doesn't seem to be dimming. The amount of carbonated water sold in the U.S. between 2009 and 2019 doubled, per data from the market research firm Euromonitor International.
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Industry experts have gone so far as to coin carbonated water as "the new soda." And, frankly, we think that's downright fantastic: When you choose a zero-calorie, zero-sweetener drink, it's intrinsically healthier than soda.
Here's everything that happens to your body when you sip seltzer regularly.
Your Indigestion May Improve
Regularly drinking sparkling water — and even choosing it over tap water — has the potential to improve your intestinal distress, per an October 2020 review in the journal Medicina. In a study of just 21 people, half drank only carbonated water and the other half drank tap water exclusively for 15 days.
At the study conclusion, sparkling water drinkers experienced a significant improvement in their indigestion. The tap water drinkers, unfortunately, saw no change in their indigestion. Another perk for the sparkling water drinkers: Their constipation improved, and more so than the tap water drinkers.
Your Appetite May Slow Its Roll
Drinking carbonated water regularly has been shown to temper appetite.
In a small study of 19 women, those who drank carbonated water (versus tap or no beverage at all) after an overnight fast recorded feeling fuller and having greater satiety, according to a January 2013 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology.
You'll Stay Hydrated
Drinking sparkling water is just as hydrating as drinking plain water, per the Medicina review. That's because the natural minerals in sparkling water act as electrolytes.
"Unsweetened, carbonated water is a great way to improve your hydration throughout the day," Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, of MohrResults.com, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Research shows adding flavor to liquid improves consumption, and this is a nice way to improve your normal humdrum water," Mohr says.
Staying hydrated is key for both physical and mental health. "Dehydration, even low levels, can start to impair both your body and your brain. [It can lead to] reduced exercise endurance, increased strain on your heart and impaired focus," says Mohr.
You Might Get Exposed to Harmful Compounds
In September 2020, Consumer Reports tested 12 carbonated water brands for four specific heavy metals and 30 PFAS (short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). The researchers didn't detect any heavy metals in any of the carbonated water brands they tested. They did, however, find PFAS in specific flavors of these seven brands: Perrier, LaCroix, Canada Dry, Poland Spring, Bubly, Polar, and Topo Chico.
That said, the PFAS levels detected were all well below the voluntary limits put out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
PFAS are a class of chemicals also known as "forever chemicals" because they don't break down and can build up in your body and the environment. In animal studies, PFAS have been found to cause reproductive and developmental problems and lead to tumor growth. In humans, PFAS are linked to higher cholesterol, thyroid and immune system issues and cancer risk, per the EPA.
Your Teeth Could Weaken
Soda is bad for your teeth because it erodes the enamel and adhesive materials used to repair or strengthen damaged or decayed teeth. Turns out, some carbonated waters (even plain!) can also have a negative effect on your teeth.
In fact, researchers found carbonated water to be more detrimental to enamel than lime juice or lime soda, per a Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry study published in January 2020.
That's because carbonated water is acidic. Sparkling waters appear to have a pH that ranges from about 4.18 to 5.87, per a January 2018 study in The Korean Journal of Orthodontics, though other research suggests even lower levels. The tipping point where enamel starts to break down is at pH 5.5.
Just how acidic your carbonated water isn't exactly something you can discover on the nutrition facts panel. But a decent rule of thumb is the more carbonated the water tastes, the more acidic it is likely to be.
In The Korean Journal of Orthodontics study, researchers tested two levels of carbonated water ("low" and "high" per an indicator light on a Sodastream) on extracted teeth. They found that both carbonation levels affected enamel and so-called microhardness, but the high-level carbonation was more detrimental than the low-level carbonation.
Another drawback to always choosing carbonated water over tap water is that sparkling water lacks fluoride. Fluoridated water is especially important for young children's teeth and most tap water in the U.S. contains added fluoride. So, if your kid has a preference for carbonated water, that's OK — just be sure to also serve them water that's fluoridated.
You Might Get Overactive Bladder Symptoms
Drinking carbonated water is associated with overactive bladder symptoms — a condition that affects nearly a quarter of the adult U.S. population and is typically more prevalent in women than men.
Symptoms of overactive bladder include so-called urinary urgency, or a sudden urge to pee, that may or may not come with incontinence.
Drinking as little as one carbonated beverage per week upped middle-aged women's risk of urinary stress incontinence, per the study of more than 6,000 women in Medicina. And drinking one a day doubles the risk of stress incontinence.
- Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology: "The Effects of Carbonated Water upon Gastric and Cardiac Activities and Fullness in Healthy Young Women"
- "Sparkling Water Is The New Soda"
- European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology: "Effects of carbonated water on functional dyspepsia and constipation"
- Medicina: "Non-Alcoholic Beverages, Old and Novel, and Their Potential Effects on Human Health, with a Focus on Hydration and Cardiometabolic Health"
- Curr Bladder Dysfunct Rep: "The Burden of Overactive Bladder on US Public Health"
- Maturitas: "You are what you eat: The impact of diet on overactive bladder and lower urinary tract symptoms"
- The Korean Journal of Orthodontics: "Effect of carbonated water manufactured by a soda carbonator on etched or sealed enamel"
- EPA: "Basic Information on PFAS"
- Consumer Reports: "What's Really In Your Bottled Water?"
- J Clin Exp Dent: "A time based objective evaluation of the erosive effects of various beverages on enamel and cementum of deciduous and permanent teeth"