While the sparkling water — the carbonated version of water — has gained popularity, people don’t exactly know where sparkling water — also commonly called carbonated water, club soda, seltzer, seltzer water, soda water, fizzy water or mineral water — stands in regard to health. Is it similar to alkaline water or something different entirely?
The benefits of drinking water are real. Now, with products that make it so easy to make carbonated water at home, a lot of people are even replacing their normal water intake with a large amount of the bubbly version. But wait, is sparkling water healthy? Is carbonation bad for you? The short answer to both questions: It depends. Let’s dive in to this fizzy beverage and find out how healthy it is or isn’t.
What Is Sparkling Water?
What is sparkling water? Sparkling water is a variation on water, which is a clear, colorless, odorless and tasteless liquid. Sparkling water is infused with carbon dioxide, which causes it to be sparkling or bubbly. The “sparkle” of sparkling water can occur naturally or be man-made. If you were wondering what is soda water, it’s yet another name used for carbonated water or sparkling water.
The most natural form of sparkling water is sparkling mineral water, which not only naturally contains minerals, but also can be naturally carbonated. This refreshing and effervescent liquid comes straight from the source: a naturally occurring mineral spring. The sparkle can result from gases that are naturally occurring in the water. However, not all sparkling mineral water is naturally sparkling, and many mineral water companies also add carbon dioxide to the water to make it bubbly.
An example of man-made sparkling water (or seltzer water) is what comes out of the newly popular soda maker devices that inject water with carbon dioxide. If you own a carbonated water maker, then you already know how to make carbonated water at home with the push of a button. There’s flavored sparkling water, too, which has additional ingredients (sometimes natural, but other times, artificial and unhealthy).
What is seltzer water? Seltzer water is basically the man-made or artificially created version of sparkling water. Seltzer is simply water plus carbon dioxide. Seltzer water is said to have come on the scene as a cheaper alternative to sparkling mineral water.
If you’re wondering about club soda vs. seltzer, club soda has more carbon dioxide added to it compared to seltzer and has more of a taste. What is club soda? Club soda typically contains what is referred to as “mineral-like ingredients,” including sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, potassium sulfate and disodium phosphate. For anyone looking to keep sodium intake down, it’s important to note that club soda contains sodium, but seltzer is typically sodium-free.
Much like functional soda, functional soda is low in (or sometimes free of) added sugar but still hydrating.. Meanwhile, sparking water is not to be confused with hydrogen water, a type of water that has additional hydrogen molecules added to it.
Is sparkling water healthy? That’s a good question. As is the case with a lot of foods and drinks, sparkling water can be healthy if you choose the right type. The best variety of sparkling water is the mineral-rich kind, which is called sparkling mineral water. Many experts say that sparkling water can be just as hydrating as regular water, but the bubbles can make it harder to drink as much of the bubbly variety.
1. Rich in Health-Promoting Minerals
If you choose a sparkling mineral water, you can add a variety of minerals to your diet as you quench your thirst. Natural mineral waters can be defined as those “originated from an aquifer or underground reservoir, spring from one or more natural or bore sources and have specific hygienic features and, eventually, healthy properties.”
The Food and Drug Administration also has its own definition, which is “water containing not less than 250 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved solids (TDS), coming from a source at one or more bore holes or springs, originating from a geologically and physically protected underground water source.”
What this all boils down to is that sparkling mineral water must come from a natural source and naturally contain minerals. Depending on the source, the type and amount of minerals can vary. The awesome thing about mineral waters is that their minerals are said to be more easily absorbable than the minerals found in food since food minerals are attached to complex molecules while the minerals exist as free ions in mineral water. Examples of vital minerals found in sparkling mineral water include magnesium, calcium and potassium.
2. Blood Sugar Management
Mineral waters also commonly contain bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is actually found in the human body and helps maintain a healthy pH of the blood so it doesn’t become too acidic or too basic.
A study published in 2015 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine linked consumption of bicarbonate-rich mineral water with improved glycemic control. The study’s 19 healthy subjects drank either 500 milliliters of commercially available tap water or bicarbonate-rich mineral water daily. Researchers observed that compared to tap water drinkers, the mineral water drinkers experienced a significant decline in serum glycoalbumin levels. This is significant since glycoalbumin levels are used as a marker of glycemic control.
3. Healthier Alternative to Soda
Sugary drinks like soda have scientifically been shown to increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes and other serious chronic health conditions. Opting for a sugar-free, unflavored sparkling mineral water is a much better health choice.
4. Help for Dyspepsia and Constipation
One scientific review out of the U.K. analyzed 20 different trials involving 902 subjects with with a central neurological disease like Parkison’s disease or a brain injury, such as a stroke. People with these types of health issues are much more likely to experience constipation compared to the general population. This study made the interesting finding that sparkling water may be helpful to stroke victims suffering from constipation.
Another study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology examined the effects of carbonated beverages on 21 patients with functional dyspepsia and found that carbonated water improved dyspepsia symptoms as well as constipation and gallbladder emptying.
5. Safer than Tap Water
Tap water toxicity is, unfortunately, a very real problem throughout the world these days. A three-year study by the Environmental Working Group revealed 316 chemicals in tap water throughout the United States. Sparkling mineral water, ideally in glass bottles, can make a healthier, safer choice instead of drinking tap water.
Is carbonated water bad for you? Some people believe it can be.
1. Can Wear on Tooth Enamel Over Time
According to a 2018 study published in The Korean Journal of Orthodontics, carbonated water negatively affects etched or sealed enamel. This can result in decreased microhardness and removal of the adhesive material.
In addition, flavored sparking water provides soda drinkers with the fizz they love and comes in a range of fruit flavors. However, these flavorings, including citric and other fruit acids, have been linked to possible enamel teeth erosion.
Why? The lower the pH of water, the more likely it is to be destructive to our teeth. While tap water’s pH is typically between 6 and 8, the carbonating of water lowers its pH to around a 5. With flavor essences and other additions to sparkling water, the pH can go down even lower.
One study published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry showed the flavored sparkling waters that seem to be most concerning. The researchers found that the pH levels of the flavored sparkling waters tested were in the same range as cola and orange juice.
Plus, the flavored waters also contained citric acid (which is commonly added to flavored sparkling waters for taste), and as the study points out, citric acid has a “particularly high erosive potential.” In general, they found that the flavored sparkling waters had a significantly lower pH than unflavored sparkling mineral waters.
Meanwhile, another study published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation found that flavorless sparkling mineral water was 100 times less offensive to tooth enamel compared to the soft drinks tested. Overall, the researchers conclude that the minerals in sparkling mineral water positively affect any erosion taking place at the tooth surface, and “mineral waters appear to offer a safe alternative to more erosive acidic beverage.”
2. Unhealthy Additives and Sweeteners
Another issue with sparkling water is when companies add health-hazardous additives and sweeteners, which adds either more sugar or artificial sweeteners into the diet. .
3. Can Exacerbate IBS Symptoms
Carbonated water may increase irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms of diarrhea, bloating and gas due to the release of carbon dioxide in the digestive tract. One study noted that subjects with diarrhea-predominant IBS had a higher intake of carbonated beverages. Another study found that patients complaining of functional dyspepsia and constipation, carbonated water decreased satiety and worsened dyspepsia, constipation and gallbladder emptying.
- Sparkling water can be another healthy way to meet your daily hydration needs, and the best options of sparkling water are mineral-rich and free of sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and artificial flavors.
- Avoid sparkling waters that contain citric acid or any other acids to be on the safe side when it comes to the health of your teeth. If you want to make your sparkling water more interesting, you can always add healthy flavor and color boosters like fresh fruit and herbs.
- Sparkling water is rich in health-promoting minerals and is healthier than both soda and fluoride-loaded tap water, and it’s been shown to help with blood sugar management, dyspepsia and constipation.
- However, sparkling water can also wear out tooth enamel due to its carbonation, increase IBS symptoms, trigger constipation and/or diarrhea in some, and it can contain unhealthy additives and sweeteners.