Side Effects of Carbonated Drinks

When it comes to consuming carbonated drinks, you'll find a wide range of beverages on the menu. Along with regular and diet sodas, you can choose from six varieties of carbonated water, many with a hint of flavor. Before you pour a cool glass, though, know what's in your beverage.

When it comes to consuming carbonated drinks, you’ll find a wide range of beverages on the menu. (Image: Svittlana/iStock/GettyImages)

Types of Carbonated Water

The term "carbonated water" covers a lot of territory, notes Scripps Health. On one end of the spectrum, you'll find cocktail mixers, such as club soda and tonic water. Contrast those drinks with beverages like flavored sparkling water and mineral water, both of which are popular thirst quenchers.

Club soda essentially consists of plain water with added carbon dioxide. To make this generic beverage more flavorful, manufacturers blend minerals or table salt into the mix. These well-known alkaline additives neutralize carbonated water's acidity and make it taste like mineral water.

Flavored sparkling water has become increasingly popular, with many varieties available in fruit flavors. If you have a sensitive stomach, be aware that the beverage's fruit flavors may increase its acidity. On top of that, many flavored sparkling water brands contain artificial sweeteners or sugar.

Mineral water originates from underground springs and contains an assortment of naturally sourced minerals. This popular beverage can be flat or sparkling in nature. In fact, sparkling mineral water actually bubbles up from carbonated springs.

Seltzer water is a fancy name for plain water with added artificial carbonation. You can make seltzer water with a home carbonation system and skip the flavorings.

Soda water has a rich history behind, as it was first produced back in the 18th century. Today, some beverage fans regard it as similar to club soda, while others drink it instead of seltzer.

Tonic water is a different animal, as this carbonated water includes quinine and high-fructose corn syrup or sugar. Some tonic waters also contain exotic flavorings that enhance their appeal. If you have a sensitivity to aspartame, know that diet tonic water may contain this artificial sweetener.

Carbonated Water Benefits

Flavored sparkling waters and seltzers frequently appeal to water drinkers who want a beverage with a healthy dose of "pizzazz." Fortunately, carbonated water features two notable benefits that make it a desirable choice.

First is simply hydration, notes Dr. Mark Zeidel of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, just as you'd receive from drinking healthy servings of still water. However, he advises against consuming varieties that contain sugars, citric acid and extra flavorings. Sparkling water with fruit flavors (and no calories) is a good alternative to soda.

Second, carbonated water can ease your transition away from sugar-sweetened beverages, such as coke. Kari Mizgalski, a Registered Dietitian with Marshfield Clinic Health System, points out that you may prefer drinking a carbonated beverage rather than plain still water. If that's the case, carbonated water makes a nice compromise, ideally with zero calories.

If you find plain carbonated water a bit boring, jazz it up with chopped fresh or frozen fruit. Or, choose from a wide variety of flavored carbonated water at local retail outlets.

Drinking carbonated water may also help you to feel fuller. A small Japanese study, published in the February 2012 edition of the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, analyzed carbonated water's effects on short-term feelings of fullness.

During this 19-person study, healthy young women consumed equal amounts of plain water and carbonated water. Visual analog scales recorded each subject's fullness scores over three days. Researchers obtained the scores at the same time each day.

Subjects who drank carbonated water reported considerably higher fullness scores compared with those who drank plain water. It should also be noted that these heightened feelings of satiety were temporary. Larger studies are needed to determine more conclusive findings.

Beware of Added Sugar

Despite their potential health benefits, carbonated drinks have some significant downsides, both from the added sugar and from sugar-free varieties.

Regarding sugar-sweetened drinks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest states that their consumption is a major contributor to weight gain.

Furthermore, people who drink at least one to two cans of sugary carbonated drinks daily have a 26 percent higher chance of developing type II diabetes than those who rarely consume these beverages. Young adults have an even greater risk.

There's also a strong link between sugared soda consumption and tooth decay. Children who drink sugary carbonated drinks have almost twice the risk of developing cavities than those who don't, odds that continue into adulthood.

Finally, soda drinkers are at increased risk for a heart attack. In fact, men who consume one can of soda daily have a 20 percent greater chance of experiencing a heart attack (or dying from one) than those who hardly ever drink these beverages. Women who drink soda regularly are also at a higher risk.

Diet sodas have their own negative effects, according to Harvard Health. Specifically, sugar-free beverages have been connected to metabolic syndrome development, which can lead to, or occur along with diabetes. Plus, some diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners that may increase sugar cravings. So, while you're drinking that diet cola, you might be tempted to polish off a piece of chocolate cake or some peach pie.

Carbonated Drinks and Tooth Erosion

Those enticing seltzers may damage the tooth enamel, notes Wyatt R. Hume, DDS, Ph.D., Dean of the University of Utah School of Dentistry. Dr. Hume points out that many foods and beverages contain high acid levels, which can soften your tooth enamel.

Although sparkling water's carbonic acid is relatively weak, it may still compromise your enamel's integrity. Brushing your teeth can make matters worse. Dental corrosion is becoming increasingly prevalent, states Dr. Hume.

A January 2018 study in the Korean Journal of Orthodontics also confirms the link between carbonated water consumption and tooth enamel erosion. When subjects' tooth enamel was exposed to carbonated water, it experienced noticeable erosion.

After repeated contact with carbonated water, there was visible evidence that subjects' sealed enamel adhesive material has been partially stripped away. Researchers observed a wide range of destructive effects among participants.

Fizzy Beverages May Worsen GERD

Patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, may experience uncomfortable symptoms after consuming carbonated beverages, states the Cleveland Clinic. GERD progresses from heartburn, which occurs when stomach acid seeps backward into your esophagus. This typically causes a burning feeling in your chest.

If you experience heartburn more than twice per week, your physician may determine that you have GERD, which can set the stage for serious health issues. In response, she (or he) may prescribe a diet that decreases the chances of stomach acid leakage.

Because carbonated beverages can often trigger GERD symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you stop consuming them completely. This is another example of carbonated water side effects.

Stomach Bloating and Digestive Discomfort

Drinking carbonated beverages can also contribute to some undesirable gastrointestinal problems. Consider stomach bloating, an uncomfortable sensation that can make it difficult to zip your favorite jeans. Even if you haven't eaten a large meal, your abdomen feels (and may appear) full and distended.

Simply put, a beverage's carbonation (or bubbles) results in gas that stays in your stomach after you've finished your drink. This excess gas translates into inconvenient bloating and (often) belching.

To remedy this uncomfortable condition, Matt Hoffman, FNP, of Texas A&M University Health Science Center recommends that you cut down on carbonated beverages. Instead, Hoffman suggests drinking water enhanced with refreshing lemon or cucumber.

If you've had gastric surgery, consider limiting the ingestion of carbonated beverages during the recovery period. These drinks may worsen your symptoms and increase digestive discomfort.

Following gastric bypass surgery, carbonated drinks may contribute to pain, nausea and vomiting when introducing solid foods. The same is true for gastric sleeve surgery, notes the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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