If you prefer your water sparkling to still, you're not alone. Its popularity in the beverage industry continues to rise. But the real question remains — is carbonated water bad for you?
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Well, the truth is there are some downsides to sparkling water. Some studies have found it to be damaging to the stomach. Others mention the gastric effects carbon dioxide can cause. But overall, having bubbles in your water is still better than drinking soda or sugary juices.
Carbonated water may be harmful to your teeth due to its acidity level, although it's still better for you than sugary carbonated beverages. It may also make your stomach bloat, particularly if you have gastrointestinal issues. Overall, however, it doesn't pose any serious medical risks and provides the same hydration as still water.
The Truth About Your Teeth
Have you heard that sparkling water is bad for your tooth enamel? Maybe you ignored it or didn't know what enamel is. Tooth enamel is the most durable layer of your tooth. It protects your teeth from decay, discoloration and harm.
Overall it's a good idea to protect your tooth enamel. Dentists recommend avoiding sodas and other substances that damage tooth enamel. A January 2018 study in the Korean Journal of Orthodontics found that carbonated water can cause damage to tooth enamel. The researchers noted that different brands of sparkling waters have varying effects.
A study in the November 2017 Journal of the Formosan Medical Association also noted that carbonation is terrible for teeth. It pointed out shortcomings with many studies' focus being on soda over water. But the researchers found that drinks with pH levels between 2.42 and 3.46 had the worst effects. They also noted that citric acid, a common ingredient in flavored sparkling waters, increased these effects.
It'll Make Your Stomach Bloat
Have you ever felt a little gassy after drinking carbonated water? Or have you noticed yourself burping more than usual? That's because sparkling water causes bloating, a side effect no one is looking for.
A study published in the June 2018 issue of the Chemistry Research Journal explained the effects of adding bubbles to your water. Carbonated water releases carbon dioxide into your intestinal tract. This release of gas results in the bloating of your stomach.
Bloating is uncomfortable for anyone. People describe bloating as having intense pressure in your stomach. It's even worse for those with intestinal issues though. Bloating is already a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome, a problem you don't want to exacerbate.
Forget About It Being Alkaline
If you love alkaline water, then there's something you need to know about your sparkling water. It turns out that the carbon dioxide used to make bubbles in your water also lowers the pH levels. That means that making your water sparkle will increase its acidity.
A study from McGill University in November 2017 explored this phenomenon. They looked at several different brands of carbonated water and compared still to bubbles and warm to cold. And it might surprise you to learn that even the temperature made a difference.
Carbonation increases acidity. While acidity in itself isn't problematic, if your system becomes too acidic, it has a negative effect on your health. And there a few sparkling water brands that are very low on the pH scale. What's more, is that when those drinks are cold, their acidity increases.
Does the Acidity Matter?
You may be wondering whether the acidity of your water is something you need to care about. In truth, your body has a very short range for pH homeostasis. Your body does best between 7.35 and 7.45 on the pH scale. That is technically alkaline but not by much,
Chances are your body is already in that range. If so, there's nothing to worry about in regard to the pH balance of your body. As noted in the Formosan Medical Association study, though, too much acidity is bad for your teeth. So, while you may not need to drink alkaline water for your pH balance, your teeth would probably like it.
Of course, there were only a few drinks that were at the 2.42 to 3.46 range that the study warned against. So most of your carbonated waters should be fine. Just remember the Formosan study also cautioned against citric acid, which is a common sparking water ingredient. It may add delicious flavor to your water, but you don't want to forget to consider its effect on your teeth.
Read more: Acid vs. Alkaline in The Body
Are There Any Benefits?
With so many warnings against drinking sparkling water, you're probably wondering what the benefits are. It seems people often recommend carbonated drinks for upset stomachs. But there actually isn't a lot of research to back that up. So, you may or may not notice any reduction in nausea from your bubbly water.
That doesn't mean that adding carbonation to your water lacks any benefits at all. Just that there may be some commonly touted benefits that are lacking in evidence. In fact, a study from the June 2018 issue of Chemistry Research Journal found it could help with constipation. The effect was particularly observed in populations of people who've had a stroke.
The researchers also found that still water attracts more bacteria growth, an essential factor for consideration since most of your water is bottled long before you use it. The longer it sits, the more bacteria can grow. They suggest that still water is particularly susceptible due to the oxidation that occurs after the bottling of the water.
Should You Drink Sparkling Water?
If sparkling water is bad for your teeth and can cause bloating, should you drink it? Is it going to push you over the edge from a balanced system to acidosis? The truth is you have to consider the rest of your diet to determine if you can make allowances for these effects. But overall sparkling water is a lot less harmful than other beverages out there.
If you're choosing between soda and sparkling water — carbonated water is the better choice. Even if you love a brand with high acidity, you'll be skipping the mass amounts of sugar and chemicals common to sodas. In fact, without artificial flavoring, the only downside is the carbonation.
Read more: How Can I Tell When My Body is Hydrated?
Best of all, carbonated water is still water, which means it hydrates you. So, while it may have a few drawbacks if it's making you drink more water, that's a good thing. Hydration is imperative to your overall health, and finding habits that improve your hydration is a positive thing. Of course, you may consider moderating just how much sparking water you drink in a day.
- McGill University: “Is Carbonated Water Bad for Your Teeth?”
- Korean Journal of Orthodontics: “Effect of Carbonated Water Manufactured by a Soda Carbonator on Etched or Sealed Enamel”
- Journal of the Formosan Medical Association: “Erosive Potential of Soft Drinks on Human Enamel: An in Vitro Study”
- Chemistry Research Journal: “Monitoring Bottled Mineral Water Brands”
- Acute Care Testing: "An Introduction to Acid-Base Balance in Health and Disease"
- Bevnet: "Nielsen: Sparkling Waters, CSDs Spur Growth in March"
- Delta Dental: "Enamel: Your Teeth's Natural Defense"