Remember back in the 90’s when it seemed CRAZY to pay $$$ for water in a bottle? I mean, come on, its free (or nearly free) right out of a tap. Since the early 90s bottled water sales have experienced CRAZY growth and in 2016, for the first time, the volume of bottled water sold surpassed soft drinks sold — 12.8 billion gallons sold versus 12.4 billion. Note, that part of the reason for bottled water overtaking soft drinks is that soft drink sales have been declining for years.
While carbonated soft drinks have been declining, carbonated (or sparkling) water has been enjoying very strong growth with volume increasing from 263 million gallons in 2011 to a projected 790 gallons in 2017. This amount is a small fraction of bottled water and soft drinks, but a very quickly growing segment.
Sparkling water is merely plain old water with added CO2 for carbonation and sometimes flavoring (A glossary of carbonated waters is at the end of the IFOD). It typically has zero calories and zero sugars. Sounds like it is pretty healthy. But is it? Over the years there have been a number of claims about sparkling water being bad for health, which are addressed in turn below:
- Sparkling Water and Calcium. There have been concerns that sparkling water can leech calcium from your bones and lead to osteoporosis. There is no evidence of this. Some studies have shown that consumption of soft drinks is linked to lower bone density, but there is no evidence that the culprit is the carbonation in soft drinks. Other studies have found that consuming sparkling water has no effect on bone density.
- Sparkling Water and Your Teeth. While it is true that the CO2 in sparkling water does create carbonic acid which makes the water slightly more acidic, the amount carbonic acid is not enough to have much of an impact on tooth enamel. It is possible that drinking a large amount of (unflavored) sparkling water can have a mild corrosive effect on teeth over a very long time. If the sparkling water contains citrus flavoring, however, the additional citric acid can be detrimental to tooth enamel. What you should be worried about is soft drinks as soda is quite acidic and one study found soda to be about 100x as damaging to tooth enamel as sparking water.
- Sparkling Water and Your Throat and Stomach. There is no evidence that sparkling water will damage your throat and stomach. To the contrary, there are studies that suggest that drinking fizzy water can help calm an upset stomach and can reduce symptoms of constipation. However, carbonated beverages can make acid reflux worse.
- Sparkling Water and Hydration. Sparkling water is just water with carbonation and studies have confirmed that it is just as hydrating as tap water. One caveat is that carbonation can make you feel more full and thus you may drink less sparkling water than tap water. On the other hand, flavored sparkling water is yummy and may lead to more water consumption than just tap water.
CONCLUSION: Sparkling water is a yummy alternative to tap or bottled water and much better alternative to drinking soft drinks (even diet ones: Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Management). In fact, the bubbles in sparkling water may make you feel more full than tap water and thus assist in weight management. So, drink up!
One of the leading brands of sparkling water is LaCroix which is flavored with “natural essence.” What is “natural essence?” The company that produces it keeps it secret. Here’s an interesting article about LaCroix’s mysterious flavoring from the Wall Street Journal: LaCroix Fizzy Water Is Everyone’s Favorite. Nobody Knows What’s In It
Here’s a quick glossary of various types of carbonated water:
Seltzer: This is just plain water with added CO2 for carbonation. Also referred to as “Sparkling Water.”
Mineral Water: Water from a natural, unpolluted, underground source and contains small amounts of natural minerals, such as calcium, magnesium and sodium. If it is carbonated (either added or occurring naturally) it is considered “Sparkling Mineral Water.” Perrier is sparkling mineral water and it’s carbonation is naturally occurring and has higher levels of carbonation than most other sparkling waters.
Club Soda: is a mix of carbonated water with sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and potassium sulfate, to enhance the flavor and to mimic the taste of mineral water.
Tonic Water: This is water with added carbonation as well as sugars such as high fructose corn syrup along with citric acid, sodium benzoate, quinine and natural flavors. It is generally high in calories and goes really well with gin. Its really a soft drink.
Soda Water: An ambiguous term that can refer to Seltzer or Club Soda.